Duke University Medical Center researchers have found that the naturally occurring marine toxin domoic acid can cause subtle but lasting cognitive damage in rats exposed to the chemical before birth. Humans can become poisoned by the potentially lethal, algal toxin after eating contaminated shellfish.
The researchers saw behavioral effects of the toxin in animals after prenatal exposure to domoic acid levels below those generally deemed safe for adults, said Edward Levin, Ph.D. Those effects –- including an increased susceptibility to disruptions of memory -- persisted into adulthood, he said.
The findings in rats, therefore, imply that the toxin might negatively affect unborn children at levels that do not cause symptoms in expectant mothers, said Levin. While the researchers note that eating seafood offers significant health benefits, they said their findings suggest that the current threshold of toxin at which affected fisheries are closed should perhaps be lowered. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) set the current limit based on levels safe for adults, Levin said.
Kendall Morgan | EurekAlert!
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