The Ciguatera toxin, when ingested by humans, can kill. It comes from
an organism called Gambierdiscus Toxicus which attaches itself to algae
around coral reefs in tropical areas all over the world. The toxin is not
always present, but it builds up in fish over time. Larger reef fish are
more likely to contain larger doses. Similarly, it builds up in humans
who eat the fish, but it is not evident until a dangerous level of toxicity
has been reached. At that time, a severe reaction can occur during which
people with existing heart conditions are the ones most at risk and can
die. Initial symptoms include nausea, a tingly feeling all over and inability
to differentiate hot from cold. These can reoccur for years after contamination.
There is no way to tell without testing, whether a fish contains the
toxin, and it cannot be removed by any known means once contaminated. There
are estimated to be more than 500 species of fish that carry the toxin
in their systems. Ones more likely to contain Ciguatera are larger individuals
of barracuda, amberjack, blackjack, mackerel, pompano, sea bass, snapper
and grouper. There is no cure known presently, but atropine injections
have been shown to help in some severe cases.
After many years of research at the University of Hawaii, the first and
only kit for testing fish samples for Ciguatera is now available.
Called "Cigua-Check," a 5-test kit is $20 by direct order from
Oceanit Test Systems Inc.
1100 Alakea St. 31st Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813. Phone:
808-539-2345 Fax: 808-531-3177 E-mail: email@example.com
The National Academy of Sciences reports that scientists at the US
Naval research center near 'Washington and the Biotechnology firm VICAL
in California say they have developed an experimental vaccine more
protective against the disease of Malaria than any other so far tested.
By using the revolutionary approach of injecting a gene instead of the
traditional form of the vaccine into animals, they say an immune
response was produced in 68% of those tested. The new technique has the
potential of being applied to diseases besides Malaria. Dr. Steven
Hoffman says hopes are to have human trials of the Malaria vaccine
underway in two years.
Another malaria vaccine known as SPF-66 which has already undergone
extensive human testing in Africa was developed by a Colombian scientists
and has been reported by the World Health Organization in the British Journal
Lancet to have been effective in reducing infection in 30 to 40% of cases.
It said the vaccine will be produced in mass quantities within the next
two years. The World Health Organization plans to begin testing several
other possible Malaria vaccines in the next two to four years.
A Chinese treatment for the malaria parasite in humans was recently
tested by the National Scientific Research Center of Paris, France. The
testing took place in Africa where 90 percent of the world's malaria
cases occur and it was found to be 100 percent effective in eliminating
the disease. The test was not conclusive however, as it was small and
further testing is required. But scientists are optimistic that the new
drug called Pyronaradium will be very effective as an alternative
treatment to traditional methods to which malaria is showing increasing
resistance. There are numerous vaccines also undergoing testing by
various research groups now that show promise of preventing the disease
all together. One called SPF-66 which was developed by a Colombian
scientist and that has proved to be up to 60 percent effective was
turned over to the World Health Organization last May for worldwide
After a hurricane, there is always the worry about increased numbers
of mosquitoes and the diseases they carry like malaria and dengue fever.
Dengue fever is on the rise in Latin America and the Caribbean. The
deadly hemorrhagic form of dengue is characterized by fever, headache,
rash, severe joint and muscle pain, and in the worst cases, uncontrolled
bleeding and death. The World Health Organization says the current
outbreak could be the most serious since 1981.
In October, the US Center for Disease Control issued an advisory for
the Pneumonic Plague to US Virgin Islands health officials because of
the high number of people traveling between the USVI and India. The
disease has reached epidemic proportions in India where it is spread by
a rat flea which also infects humans. More than 50 have died because of
the disease on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Screening of airline
passengers arriving from India, and rodent control measures have been
put in place in St. Lucia. US Virgin Islands health officials however,
said they have no plans to act upon the advisory.
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