Center for Infectious Diseases and Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, Laboratorio Unificado de Control de Alimentos y Medicamentos, Guatemala Ministry of Health, Atlanta, Georgia, Guatemala
An outbreak of paralytic shellfish poisoning occurred in Champerico, on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, July–August 1987. Of 187 people affected with characteristic neurologic symptoms, 26 died. A case study implicated a species of clam, Amphichaena kindermani, harvested from local beaches as the vehicle of the neurotoxins (saxitoxins). Children < 6 years old had a higher fatality rate (50%) than people > 18 years of age (7%). The minimum lethal dose for 1 child was estimated to have been 140 mouse units of toxin/kg body weight; thus children may be more sensitive to the saxitoxins than are adults. This is the first large outbreak of paralytic shellfish poisoning recognized in Guatemala.