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Mar. Drugs 2014, 12(1), 88-97;

Invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans): A Potential Human Health Threat for Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in Tropical Waters

Food and Drug Administration, Division of Seafood Science and Technology, Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory, 1 Iberville Drive, Dauphin Island, AL 36528, USA
Department of Marine Sciences, University of South Alabama, 5871 University Drive North, Mobile, AL 36688, USA
Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, University of the Virgin Islands, 2 John Brewers Bay, St. Thomas, VI 00802, USA
College of Science and Mathematics, University of the Virgin Islands, RR1 Box 10000, Kingshill, VI 00850, USA
The Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education (CORE) Foundation, Christiansted, VI 00824, USA
St. Thomas Fishermen's Association, P.O. Box 308116, St. Thomas, VI 00803, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 October 2013 / Revised: 22 November 2013 / Accepted: 11 December 2013 / Published: 27 December 2013
PDF [978 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


Invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans) have rapidly expanded in the Western Atlantic over the past decade and have had a significant negative impact on reef fish biodiversity, habitat, and community structure, with lionfish out-competing native predators for resources. In an effort to reduce this population explosion, lionfish have been promoted for human consumption in the greater Caribbean region. This study examined whether the geographical expansion of the lionfish into a known ciguatera-endemic region can pose a human health threat for ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP). More than 180 lionfish were collected from waters surrounding the US Virgin Islands throughout 2010 and 2011. Ciguatoxin testing included an in vitro neuroblastoma cytotoxicity assay for composite toxicity assessment of sodium-channel toxins combined with confirmatory liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. A 12% prevalence rate of ciguatoxic lionfish exceeding the FDA guidance level of 0.1 µg/kg C-CTX-1 equivalents was identified in fish from the U.S. Virgin Islands, highlighting a potential consumption risk in this region. This study presents the first evidence that the invasive lionfish, pose a direct human health risk for CFP and highlights the need for awareness and research on this food safety hazard in known endemic areas. View Full-Text
Keywords: ciguatera fish poisoning; Caribbean ciguatoxins; lionfish; Caribbean; mass spectrometry ciguatera fish poisoning; Caribbean ciguatoxins; lionfish; Caribbean; mass spectrometry

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Robertson, A.; Garcia, A.C.; Quintana, H.A.F.; Smith, T.B.; II, B.F.C.; Reale-Munroe, K.; Gulli, J.A.; Olsen, D.A.; Hooe-Rollman, J.I.; Jester, E.L.E.; Klimek, B.J.; Plakas, S.M. Invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans): A Potential Human Health Threat for Ciguatera Fish Poisoning in Tropical Waters. Mar. Drugs 2014, 12, 88-97.

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