Chemical analysis traces toxic trouble from bees back to a plant’s stealthy biological defense
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In a sticky sting operation, researchers may have nabbed the last toxic members of a honey-tainting ring in New Zealand.
Cloaked in sugars, two forms of tutin — a potent neurotoxin that can cause delirium and seizures — have been found lurking in poisoned honey, researchers report online May 21 in the Journal of Natural Products. The discovery of the incognito toxins helps to explain puzzling inconsistencies in the timing and severity of symptoms in people who have eaten the spiked syrup.
The new finding will help ensure New Zealand’s honey is safe, says clinical neurologist Andrew Chancellor with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board in Tauranga, New Zealand. “Sporadic outbreaks of honey poisoning in New Zealand have occurred in low numbers for as long as records have been kept,” he says. For instance, a 2008 outbreak sickened more than 20,