Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine
Volume 26 | Issue 4 | Year 2022

Fipronil and Acetamiprid Poisoning: New Perils

Ramkumar Jayaprakash1, Ashok Elangovan2, Pradeep Nagaraju3

1,2Department of Critical Care Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

3Department of Emergency Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Corresponding Author: Ramkumar Jayaprakash, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, Phone: +91 9481818192, e-mail:

How to cite this article: Jayaprakash R, Elangovan A, Nagaraju P.Fipronil and Acetamiprid Poisoning: New Perils. Indian J Crit Care Med 2022;26(4):528–529.

Source of support: Nil

Conflict of interest: None


Suicides due to insecticide poisoning represent a major public health concern. Introduction of newer synthetic pesticides like neonicotinoids and fipronil, with novel mechanisms of action, have led to widespread adoption of these in the agriculture industry. They act by altering the neuronal transmission mechanisms in the central nervous system, specifically of the invertebrates, and lead to death of the organism. Though they were perceived to be invertebrate-specific, there have been few case reports of these, leading to notable clinical adverse effects on human exposure. We present a case of acetamiprid and fipronil consumption, who presented to us with central nervous system manifestations and his clinical management. With increasing use of newer pesticides, clinical knowledge regarding the toxic effects of these seems indispensable

Keywords: Acetamiprid, Fipronil, Poisoning, Seizure.


Deliberate self-harm with pesticides represents a major hidden public health problem, accounting for up to a third of all suicides worldwide. It is estimated that more than 300,000 people die from pesticide poisoning each year.1 Concerns regarding human safety due to use of organophosphorus/organochlorine pesticides and the selection of resistant insect strains have provided new impetus to develop newer insecticides like neonicotinoids and fipronil. The relatively low risk for nontarget organisms and the environment and the high specificity for target insects have led to widespread acceptance of these novel insecticides in the farming community.

Neonicotinoids and fipronil exert their toxic effects by altering the mechanism of neural transmission in the central nervous system (CNS) of invertebrates. While neonicotinoids mimic the action of neurotransmitters, fipronil inhibits these receptors. By doing so, they ultimately lead to death of target invertebrates. Here, we present a case report of both acetamiprid (neonicotinoid) and fipronil poisoning.


A 45-year-old man was referred to our hospital emergency department with alleged history of ingestion of pesticide, which contained a combination of acetamiprid 4% (w/w) and fipronil 4%. He had a generalized tonic clonic seizure (GTCS), while being transported to our hospital. On arrival, his GCS was E1V2M5. There was drooling of oral secretions. His heart rate was 45–55/minute, and blood pressure was 100/60 mm Hg. He was breathing at 20–25 breaths/minute and SpO2 >94% on room air. He was intubated for airway protection and initiated on mechanical ventilation. He was commenced on midazolam for his seizure management. Gastric lavage was done, and activated charcoal was administered. Laboratory investigations revealed a normal hemogram, sodium of 135 mmol/L, potassium of 2.9 mmol/L, creatinine of 0.81 mg/dL, and urea of 24 mg/dL. ABG showed pH 7.30, PaO2 172 mm Hg, PaCO2 36 mm Hg, HCO3 17.7 mmol/L, and lactate 3.9 mmol/L. A plain chest radiograph was normal, and ECG showed sinus bradycardia.

He was transferred to the ICU for further management. Invasive ventilatory support and other supportive care were continued. Potassium was 4.5 mmol/L, post-IV correction. Over the next 24 hours, his sensorium improved and there were no focal neurological deficits. His muscle power was adequate, and he was successfully weaned off ventilatory support and extubated. He made an uneventful recovery and was discharged home after 3 days of hospital stay.


Nicotine from tobacco extracts was used as plant-derived insecticide in 1600s. Later, synthetic organics, like neonicotinoids, replaced inorganics and botanicals. The neonicotinoids act as agonists at the postsynaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) of insects and mammals. The neonicotinoids are not protonated but instead have an electronegative tip that imparts potency and selectivity. The low mammalian toxicity of neonicotinoids has also been explained by its inability to cross the blood–brain barrier because of lack of a charged nitrogen atom at physiological pH. The uncharged molecule, however, can penetrate the insect blood–brain barrier. These differences provide the neonicotinoids with favorable toxicological profile.2 However, the desnitro breakdown product, which is formed in a mammal’s body, postmetabolism has a charged nitrogen and shows high affinity to mammalian nAChRs.3

The mechanism of action of organochlorine pesticides was discovered in the early 1980s. The antagonistic activity on the GABA receptors prevents the opening of chloride ion channels leading to lowering neuron’s membrane potential. This results in CNS hyperstimulation. Fipronil, a N-phenylpyrazole insecticide, acts by binding to allosteric sites of GABAA receptors as an antagonist, but not to the GABAC receptor.4 Of all GABA receptor-binding pesticides, fipronil has the highest specificity for insect GABA receptors with 150-fold–2,000-fold selectivity. Fipronil is metabolized in mammals to a sulfone compound, which binds to native human GABA receptors with around sixfold higher avidity.5

There is dearth of literature considering acetamiprid and fipronil poisoning. Lin et al., in their literature review regarding neonicotinoid poisoning, have noted that acetamiprid poisoning accounted for about 5% of neonicotinoid poisonings.6 Seizures were seen in 5% of all cases. Coma was noted in 64% of cases. Apnea/dyspnea was seen in 73% of cases. Severe intoxication, characterized by apnea/dyspnea, GCS <8, tachy/bradycardia, and hypotension, was seen in up to 33% of cases. Todani et al. reported a patient who had coma, hypotension, nausea, vomiting, and hyperglycemia following intentional acetamiprid ingestion. The patient had paroxysmal atrial fibrillation for ~11 hours. Subsequently, the patient was discharged without any complications.7 Imamura et al. have reported two cases with intentional acetamiprid ingestion who had CNS manifestation in the form of single self-limiting seizure. Both of them had muscle weakness, which resolved spontaneously. They were discharged without any complications.8

Mohamed et al. have presented a case series of seven patients with fipronil intoxication. Nonsustained GTCS was seen in two patients, both of whom were treated with diazepam and recovered without any neurological deficits. They also describe a patient who was unconscious on admission and had to be intubated. The patient had GTCS several times despite therapy with benzodiazepines and phenobarbitone. He subsequently developed pneumonia and died in ICU.1 Yadla et al. have reported a case who had four episodes of seizures following fipronil poisoning. Subsequently, she developed acute kidney injury (AKI) needing renal replacement therapy.9 Lee et al. have presented surveillance data from United States regarding acute illness associated with fipronil exposure. Neurological symptoms like headache, dizziness, paresthesia, muscle weakness, and confusion were most common (>50%) observed clinical manifestations. All of them improved with supportive care.10

Thus, management of both acetamiprid and fipronil intoxication remains predominantly supportive in nature, in the absence of any specific antidote. Appropriate timely resuscitation and supportive care lead to favorable outcomes. Seizure management with standard protocols with benzodiazepines, maintenance of oxygenation, ventilation, and circulation form the mainstay of therapy. Though acetamiprid and fipronil are generally considered to be less toxic to humans, the clinician should watch out for potential complications, which predominantly needs supportive care.


Ramkumar Jayaprakash

Ashok Elangovan

Pradeep Nagaraju


1. Mohamed F, Senarathna L, Percy A, Abeyewardene M, Eaglesham G, Cheng R, et al. Acute human self-poisoning with the N-phenylpyrazole insecticide fipronil–A GABAA-gated chloride channel blocker. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2004;42(7):955–963. DOI: 10.1081/clt-200041784.

2. Tomizawa M, Casida JE. Neonicotinoid insecticide toxicology: mechanisms of selective action. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol 2005;45:247–268. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.45.120403.095930.

3. Tomizawa M. Neonicotinoids and derivatives: effects in mammalian cells and mice. J Pesticide Sci 2004;29(3):177–183. DOI: 10.1584/jpestics.29.177.

4. Ratra GS, Erkkila BE, Weiss DS, Casida JE. Unique insecticide specificity of human homomeric rho 1 GABAc receptor. Toxicol Lett 2002;129(1–2):47–53. DOI: 10.1016/s0378-4274(01)00471-4.

5. Hainzl D, Cole LM, Casida JE. Mechanisms for selective toxicity of fipronil insecticide and its sulfone metabolite and desulfinyl photoproduct. Chem Res Toxicol 1998;11(12):1529–1535. DOI: 10.1021/tx980157t.

6. Lin PC, Lin HJ, Liao YY, Guo HR, Chen KT. Acute poisoning with neonicotinoid insecticides: a case report and literature review. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 2013;112(4):282–286. DOI: 10.1111/bcpt.12027.

7. Todani M, Kaneko T, Hayashida H, Kaneda K, Tsuruta R, Kasaoka S, et al. Acute poisoning with neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid. Chudoku Kenkyu 2008;21(4):387–390 [Japanese]. PMID: 19069132.

8. Imamura T, Yanagawa Y, Nishikawa K, Matsumoto N, Sakamoto T. Two cases of acute poisoning with acetamiprid in humans. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2010;48(8):851–853. DOI: 10.3109/15563650.2010.517207.

9. Yadla M, Sailaja S, Ahmed N, Uppin M, Arlappa N. An unusual case of insecticide poisoning presenting as acute kidney injury. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl 2017;28(6):1432–1434. DOI: 10.4103/1319-2442.220867.

10. Lee SJ, Mulay P, Diebolt-Brown B, Lackovic MJ, Mehler LN, Beckman J, et al. Acute illnesses associated with exposure to fipronil–surveillance data from 11 states in the United States, 2001-2007. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2010;48(7):737–744. DOI: 10.3109/15563650.2010.507548.

© The Author(s). 2022 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and non-commercial reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.