Tetrodotoxin is associated with puffer fish poisoning. The deadly substance is now under suspicion in the death of a biodiesel entrepreneur who attempted to start a business venture in Sierra Leone.
Tetrodotoxin Fish Poisoning May Have Killed Entrepreneur
Mail Online reports that the Oxfordshire biodiesel entrepreneur died in 2009 while attending to business in Sierra Leone. Authorities found tetrodox (a.k.a. tetrodotoxin) in the man’s body. The coroner considers it “likely” that puffer fish poisoning is to blame for the entrepreneur’s death.
It is interesting to note that the murder victim’s business partner considers the puffer fish’s tetrodotoxin to be an occasionally used method “to poison people” in Sierra Leone. At the time of his death, the biodiesel entrepreneur was investigating the alleged embezzlement of funds by a local business associate.
Tetrodotoxin in the Human Body
The BBC explains that while tetrodotoxin was found in the entrepreneur’s body, it is unclear how it got there. Adding even more mystery to the case is the fact that prior to his death, the victim alerted his family to an odd spot that had suddenly manifested on his head.
Of course, the most common method for introducing tetrodotoxin into the body is the voluntary consumption of inexpertly prepared puffer fish or fugu. Researchers from Nagasaki University remember a time when fish poisoning was so commonplace that the Japanese government had to intervene and regulate the preparation and consumption of the puffer fish.
When introduced into the human body, tetrodotoxin fish poisoning symptoms include a gradually progressing numbing of the lips, limbs and organs. The onset of symptoms – as outlined by eMedicine – occurs usually within 10 to 45 minutes after initial ingestion.
Fatalities are due to respiratory failure. Although there is no antidote, odds of survival are heightened when the body is aided in naturally eliminating the poison while being artificially ventilated.
Puffer Fish Poisoning as a Weapon of Choice?
Since the toxicity of tetrodotoxin is one of the more well-known puffer fish facts, it is not surprising that this type of fish poisoning as a form of lethal weapon has been alleged before. A 2009 Illinois court case involved a husband, his purchase of tetrodotoxin doses and “fraudulently obtained life insurance policies.”
Mail Online: “Falklands War veteran, 48, ‘victim of plot to kill him with deadly puffer fish poison'”
BBC: “Pufferfish ‘probably’ killed ex-para who served in NI”
Nagasaki University: “Toxins of Pufferfish That Cause Human Intoxications”
eMedicine: “Pufferfish Poisoning Symptoms
United States of America vs. Edward F. Bachner IV: “Superseding Indictment”