False positive tests for ciguatera may derail efforts to control invasive lionfish
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- Wilcox, C.L. & Hixon, M.A. Environ Biol Fish (2015) 98: 961. doi:10.1007/s10641-014-0313-0
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There has been a recent push for human consumption of the invasive Pacific lionfishes Pterois miles/volitans as a management strategy throughout the greater western tropical Atlantic region, where lionfish have become a significant ecological problem. Recent tests have indicated that invasive lionfishes may be ciguatoxic, threatening the viability of a fishery-based management strategy. However, if innate scorpaenitoxins in the flesh of lionfish are mimicking ciguatoxin, consumption may be safe after all. There have been no confirmed cases of ciguatoxin poisoning from eating lionfish, indicating that false positive tests may be occurring. Based on the high degree of similarity in the biochemical effects of ciguatoxin and scorpaenitoxins, it is possible that bioassays for ciguatoxin are inaccurate in scorpaeniform fishes. Preliminary results suggest that scorpaenitoxins or other venom components are capable of contaminating ciguatoxin assays, and thus we urge caution regarding interpretation of ciguatoxin assays in invasive lionfishes. We recommend that ciguatera tests of lionfish be done after cooking the flesh, which denatures the scorpaenitoxins yet leaves ciguatoxin intact.