Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cause of mussel poisoning identified

26.03.2009
The origin of the neurotoxin azaspiracid has finally been identified after a search for more than a decade.

The azaspiracid toxin group can cause severe poisoning in human consumers of mussels after being enriched in the shellfish tissues. The scientific periodical European Journal of Phycology reports in its current issue (Vol. 44/1: p. 63-79) that a tiny algal species, the dinoflagellate Azadinium spinosum, is responsible.

Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association have isolated and described the hitherto unknown organism as a new genus and species of dinoflagellate. They successfully isolated the organism and multiplied it in pure laboratory cultures, subsequently identifying it as the producer of azaspiracid toxin.

Eating mussels is a special treat for many people, although it is not completely without danger. It has been known for a long time that consumption of mussels and other bivalve shellfish can cause poisoning in humans, with symptoms ranging from diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting to neurotoxicological effects, including paralysis and even death in extreme cases.

Although "shellfish poisoning" can also be caused by pathogenic viruses and bacteria, many cases are due to gastrointestinal toxins and/or neurotoxins produced by certain marine microscopic plankton, the so-called "toxic algae". Mussels can filter a high amount of these toxic microorganisms from the seawater column, and after ingestion they retain the toxins and accumulate them in their edible flesh.

Azaspiracids comprise one group of these microalgal toxins The first known azaspiracid poisonings occurred in the Netherlands in 1995 after consumption of mussels from Ireland. While the toxin itself has been quite well investigated, the question of the origin remained inconclusive until now despite intensive research. According to published investigations by Irish researchers, the dinoflagellate species Protoperidinium crassipes (previously regarded as harmless) has been blamed as the origin of the toxins since 2003.

Researchers from the Working Group on Ecological Chemistry, particularly the biologist Dr. Urban Tillmann and the chemist Dr. Bernd Krock from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research were able to show that Protoperidinium is only the vector and not the producer of the toxins, just like other voracious protozoa and mussels. They isolated a small alga from the North Sea off the Scottish east coast and described it as a new dinoflagellate species Azadinium spinosum while providing evidence of its azaspiracid production in the laboratory.

"We are able to produce so-called gene probes from our laboratory cultures with the help of molecular techniques", explains Tillmann. "These gene probes prove the existence of the toxin-producing algae in seawater samples and they offer an effective future early warning system for mussel farms", Tillmann continues. Apart from these applied aspects, the researchers are interested in quite fundamental questions: why does the alga produce these azaspiracid toxins and what are their ecological functions? The researchers have already planned the next expedition in order to further pursue these questions - they will head out into the North Sea with RV Heincke at the end of April 2009.

Ude Cieluch | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.awi.de
http://www.helmholtz.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences

nachricht Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>