27th March 2023 – (Kulim) An elderly couple from Chamek Village, Kulim in Malaysia were hospitalised on 25th March, 2023, after consuming pufferfish, also known as fugu, which contains a deadly poison called tetrodotoxin. According to a report report by Sinchew Daily, the couple bought the fish from the market and fried it at home before experiencing seizures and numbness. The couple’s 57-year-old son rushed them to the hospital, but unfortunately, the 83-year-old wife died from food poisoning, while the 84-year-old husband remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
Pufferfish is a delicacy in many parts of the world, known for its unique texture and flavor. However, this fish can be extremely dangerous due to the presence of tetrodotoxin, which is mainly found in its liver and ovaries. The toxin can cause paralysis, respiratory failure, and even death. In fact, according to a neurology consultant, Dr. Chen Wei Yang, tetrodotoxin poisoning can be fatal within six hours if left untreated.
What makes tetrodotoxin even more dangerous is its stability and resistance to heat. Even after cooking, the poison remains potent and can cause serious harm to those who consume it. In the case of the elderly couple from Chamek Village, they may have mistakenly believed that they had cooked the fish thoroughly enough to eliminate the poison, but unfortunately, this was not the case.
There is currently no known antidote for tetrodotoxin poisoning, and the only way to treat it is by quickly removing the poison from the body. This can be done by hospitalisation, where patients are placed on life support, given IV fluids and medications, and their urine is monitored and treated to help expel the toxin from their body. Therefore, time is of the essence in treating tetrodotoxin poisoning, and delays in seeking medical attention can have fatal consequences.
To avoid the risk of tetrodotoxin poisoning, proper handling and preparation of pufferfish are essential. Fishermen must take special care when catching and storing the fish to ensure that it is fresh and not already contaminated with the toxin. When preparing the fish, it is important to remove the liver and ovaries entirely and clean the fish thoroughly. Additionally, it is recommended that only trained professionals handle and prepare pufferfish to minimise the risk of poisoning.