Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

A Critical Discovery about Harmful Algal Toxins

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

A Critical Discovery about Harmful Algal Toxins

Article excerpt

A new study published in Nature magazine reveals the molecular basis for resistance and accumulation of paralytic shellfish toxins (PSTs) in softshell clams. Titled A Molecular Basis for Differential Susceptibility and Accumulation of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Toxins in Commercial Bivalves, the study was supported by grants from NOAA's Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) program and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Paralytic shellfish poisoning is a persistent problem along the East and West coasts of the United States and is caused by algae that naturally produce PSTs. Shellfish feed on these toxic algae and can accumulate concentrations of toxins unsafe for human consumption.

"Harmful algal blooms pose a serious threat to human health and are economically challenging to our coastal communities," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

Saxitoxin and other PSTs are potent neurotoxins that block movement of sodium through sodium channels in nerve cell membranes, halting the flow of nerve impulses and thereby causing paralysis. Humans who consume affected shellfish can suffer from the paralytic effects of these toxins. …

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