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Man dies after cooking and eating highly poisonous pufferfish

A Brazilian man who feasted on one of the most poisonous fishes in the world has died after spending five weeks in hospital fighting for his life, according to reports.

Magno Sergio Gomes, 46, and his friend ate a toxic pufferfish – known to be 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide – over Christmas after receiving the fish as a present, according to Newsflash via the New York Post. 

Gomes, a father of three, and his pal gutted the fish, removed its liver and then boiled it and ate it with lemon juice in Aracruz, Espirito Santa, in eastern Brazil.

Magno Sergio Gomes, 46, left, ate a toxic pufferfish over Christmas after a pal gifted him the fish as a present. (Newsflash | YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/GettyImages, left, and YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/GettyImages, right)

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However, less than an hour later, both Magno and his friend fell seriously ill, his heartbroken sister Myrian Lopes told Newsflash, adding that her brother had never cleaned a pufferfish before.

“Magno started to feel numb in his mouth, then he went with his wife to the hospital, driving his car,” Lopes said, according to Newsflash.

“When he got there, his mouth was even more numb, and he felt sick. Soon after, he had a cardiac arrest that lasted eight minutes.”

Lopes said that Gomes was intubated and put on life support but never recovered. He died on Jan. 27. 

A pair of siblings pose for a photo

Myrian Lopes, left, with her brother Magno Sergio Gomes. (Newsflash)

“The doctors told our family that he died from poisoning, which had quickly traveled to his head,” Lopes said.

“Three days after being admitted, he had several seizures, which greatly affected his brain, leaving little chance of recovery.”

Lopes said her brother’s friend survived the ordeal but is having trouble with his legs. It was not clear if the friend was the same pal who gifted Gomes the pufferfish.

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Pufferfish are extremely dangerous to eat since they contain the deadly toxins tetrodotoxin (TTX) and/or saxitoxin, which can cause severe illness and death, according to the FDA.

“These are central nervous system toxins and are more deadly than cyanide,” the FDA states on its website.

“Symptoms start within 20 minutes to two hours after eating the toxic fish. Initial symptoms include tingling of the lips and mouth, followed by dizziness, tingling in the extremities, problems with speaking, balance, muscle weakness and paralysis, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe intoxications, death can result from respiratory paralysis.”

A pufferfish on the chopping board in Japan

A pufferfish on a chopping board in Japan. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/GettyImages)

The toxins are found in the livers, gonads, skin and intestines of pufferfish.

Pufferfish are considered the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world, after the golden poison frog. Pufferfish are also known as puffer, bok, blowfish, globefish, swellfish, balloonfish or sea squab, according to the FDA. 

Despite the dangers of eating pufferfish, they are considered a delicacy in Japan, where they are known as fugu. Expert Japanese fugu chefs learn to safely chop out parts of the fish that contain TTX. 

The fish is also popular in China and Korea.

A puffer fish in Japan

A pufferfish in Japan. Despite the dangers of eating pufferfish, they are considered a delicacy in Japan, where they are known as fugu. (Xavier DESMIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

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Due to the potential health hazard, commercial importation of pufferfish into the U.S. is heavily restricted while personal importation is prohibited, according to the FDA.

There is enough TTX in one pufferfish to kill 30 humans. 

Gomes’ sister said she does not know where the fish her brother ingested came from, or whether it was caught or farmed, according to Newsflash. 

Brazil is reportedly home to 20 species of pufferfish. It is unclear what type of pufferfish Gomes ate.

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