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Tetrodotoxin

Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxic agent that acts by blocking the sodium channels of neuro-muscular junction cells. Tetrodotoxin is named from the Tetraodontidae, or puffer fish where it was first observed. The Tetrodotoxin is not actually produced by the pufferfish, but is produced by a bacteria called Pseudoalteromonas haloplanktis tetraodonis.

Several creatures have been shown to possess these bacteria and use the tetrodotoxin as a weapon, including the blue-ringed octopus and the cone snail.

Toxic effects of invenination include shortness of breath, numbness, tingling, lightheadedness, paralysis and cardiac abnormalities. It also has a relatively short onset of symptoms, minor symptoms usually instantaneous. Death can occur within minutes if a fatal dose enters the body.

Common causes of Tetrodotoxin poisoning include eating fugu (puffer fish) that contains exessively large concentrations (usually accidental inclusion of liver or other organs) and cone snail stings.

No specific antitoxin is known for tetrodotoxin, but treatment usually consists of respiratory assistance. High doses are almost always fatal.

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