Poisonous pufferfish dinner kills 4 in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh – At least four people, including two children, have died in Bangladesh on Tuesday after eating pufferfish without realizing its potential poisonous effects. 

All were from the same family and fell sick within 30 minutes of eating the fish. Another child has also been hospitalized after eating fish bought from the same local fish-seller in the southern part of capital city Dhaka. 

"I had no idea that the fish is poisonous, I would have not bought it," said Taslim Akter, whose daughter Naznin is in hospital. She said she specifically cooked the liver, an especially poisonous part of the fish, for her children. 

Pufferfish, known locally as "Potka", is not commercially harvested in Bangladesh but becomes readily available during the monsoon season. In 2002, 23 people died from eating pufferfish in an area of southern Bangladesh. 

Mohammad Shahidullah, a neuroscientist at the Thomas Jefferson University's Neuroscience department said that some organs in the fish contain a poisonous toxin known as TTX and that eating the fish without removing those organs makes the "neuron-muscle connectivity collapses immediately."

"The TTX can't travel to brain but it acts on facial nerves, and the nerve controls chest diaphragm; patients die due to the breathing complications," he added.

"Potka poison is 1200 times stronger than cyanide," he said, but noted that pufferfish is not always poisonous.

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