C. Moshobane1, C. J. Marks2, C. R. Stephen3 and P. N. Mothapo4
1Biological Invasions Directorate, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria National Botanical Garden, 2 Cussonia Avenue, Brummeria, Pretoria, South Africa
2Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
3Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
4Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Invasive alien species (IAS) cause considerable negative impacts on biodiversity, economy and public health. Most studies on IASfocus on the direct biodiversity and economic impacts they cause, but few focus on human health and socioeconomic impacts. Here, we provide an analysis of human poisoning received by the Poisons Information Helpline of the Western Cape (PIH), jointly run by the Poisons Information Centres (PICs) at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital. The data collected were on reported human exposure and poisoning cases from native and alien plant species conducted over 2.5 years, between 2015–2017. During the 2 year period, the PIH received 826 plant-and fungi-related calls, with most calls received from Gauteng (47.1%) and the Western Cape (29.4%). Most calls were as a result of accidental ingestion (96.7%) and involved infants (55%), with fewer cases involving patients over 60 years (2.1%). Adults presented with minor to moderate toxicity, while infants showed no to minor toxicity. The most commonly reported known plant species were Colocasia esculenta and Melia azedarach, which accounted for (20%) of the cases. Of the ingested plants that were listed as unknown, most were due mushrooms and fungi (10%). It is essential to improve public awareness regarding invasive alien plant species in order to reduce poisoning incidences, particularly for those plants with highly attractive fruiting bodies.