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New test kit for puffer fish toxin

THAILAND - Researchers from the Medical Sciences Department have developed a test kit that can detect the presence of the deadly poison tetrodotoxin in puffer-fish meat within five minutes.

The kit will be available for use early next year, said Deputy Public Health Minister Vallop Thaineua yesterday.

The symptoms caused by tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin found in puffer fish, typically develop within 20-30 minutes of consumption. The poison's effects start with paraesthesia of the lips and tongue, muscle weakness and respiratory difficulty, Vallop said. In severe cases that are not treated in time, death can follow within six hours.

The highest concentrations of the poison are found in the fish's liver and ovaries, followed by the skin and meat, he said. Because heat cannot destroy the poison, the Public Health Ministry in 2002 prohibited the import and distribution of puffer fish and any product with puffer fish as an ingredient.

However people have died from eating the fish because some traders ignored the ban, Vallop said.

Source: TheNation

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