J Korean Med Assoc.  2011 Jun;54(6):617-626. 10.5124/jkma.2011.54.6.617.

Food poisoning

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine, Bucheon, Korea. mslee8597@hanmail.net


This article aims to help physicians to make a differential diagnosis of food poisoning by introducing the incubation period, clinical symptoms of each causative agent according to the mode of manifestation. Etiologic agents for food poisoning are classified as bacterial, viral, natural toxin, and chemical toxin. Bacterial food poisoning is classified as infectious type, toxin type and other type according to the pathogenesis. Natural toxin food poisoning are classified as plant and animal food poisoning according to causative food. Many of the diagnoses are made clinically, without confirmative laboratory tests. However, some of food poisonings require the confirmative etiologic diagnoses, because they have rapid life-threatening courses and need proper speedy therapies. When incubation period is 1-6 hours, natural toxin type food poisoning should be suspected such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus vomiting type. When it is 7 to 12 hours, Clostridium perfringens and Bacillus cereus diarrheal type should be suspected. When it is 12 to 72 hours, Enterotoxigenic Echerichia coli, Salmonella spp., Vibrio parahemolyticus and Norovirus should be suspected. Before the result of confirmative laboratory test, a probable diagnosis for the etiology of food poisoning should be based upon the combination of their clinical manifestations, food histories, and pathogenic mechanisms.


Food poisoning; Differential dignosis; Etiology

MeSH Terms

Bacillus cereus
Clostridium perfringens
Diagnosis, Differential
Foodborne Diseases
Staphylococcus aureus

Cited by  1 articles

Molecular Epidemiology of Clostridium perfringens Isolated from Food Poisoning in Seoul, 2013
Younghee Jin, Jihun Jung, Sujin Jeon, Seongseon Choi, Youngeun Kim, Younghee Oh, Sungmin Choi, Kweon Jung
J Bacteriol Virol. 2014;44(2):170-176.    doi: 10.4167/jbv.2014.44.2.170.


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