New toxic microalgae species causing ciguatera discovered

[Spain] Researchers at the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) have discovered a new toxic microalgae species, a dinoflagellate of the genus Gambierdiscus.

The new species was isolated in samples taken in Indonesia and is a microalgae producing ciguatoxin. These substances are responsible for ciguatera, the most widespread non-bacterial food poisoning caused by fish in the world.

This microalgae has been dubbed Gambierdiscus balechii in honor of the eminent Argentine taxonomist Enrique Balech, who died in 2007 after a lifetime devoted to the study of plankton, especially dinoflagellates.

Ciguatera is a disease that mainly affects tropical areas of the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian Oceans, but there have also been some cases in the Canaries, where IEO team that has discovered the new species has been studying this type of microalgae.

Currently in force, IEO researchers are conducting CICAN project, which aims to study ciguatera in the Canaries.

In 2015 a broad sampling was conducted in five of the islands of the archipelago and this year it has been planned to deepen the study on the distribution and ecology of the Gambierdiscus species detected. Numerous laboratory cultures have been estableished from several potentially ciguatoxin producing species isolated from the Canary Islands, making it possible to perform toxicological studies.

Prior to this project, in 2011, said researchers had already described a new species of the same genus in the Canary Islands, which had been named G. excentricus. One of the first results of this project was the description of a second species in the Canary Islands, the G. silvae, which is also toxic.

At the Canaries, scientists had detected further three species that had already been described in the Caribbean waters or those from Polynesia, areas where ciguatera is an important food issue.

The presence of these five species in Canarian waters could explain ciguatera poisoning that has been recorded on the islands as a result of consuming amberjack, demonstrating that there is not an extraordinary phenomenon but a normal one.

Concentrations of the toxic species that have been recorded in some samples in the course of this project can be considered equivalent to those found in some parts of the world where ciguatera is endemic.


View original article at: New toxic microalgae species causing ciguatera discovered

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