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Marine toxins: Chemistry, toxicity, occurrence and detection, with special reference to the Dutch situation

Author(s): Gerssen A, Pol-Hofstad, IE, Poelman M, Mulder PP, Van den T, et al.

Abstract

Various species of algae can produce marine toxins under certain circumstances. These toxins can then accumulate in shellfish such as mussels, oysters and scallops. When these contaminated shellfish species are consumed severe intoxication can occur. The different types of syndromes that can occur after consumption of contaminated shellfish, the corresponding toxins and relevant legislation are discussed in this review. Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), Diarrheic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) and Azaspiracid Shellfish Poisoning (AZP) occur worldwide, Neurologic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) is mainly limited to the USA and New Zealand while the toxins causing DSP and AZP occur most frequently in Europe. The latter two toxin groups are fat-soluble and can therefore also be classified as lipophilic marine toxins. A detailed overview of the official analytical methods used in the EU (mouse or rat bioassay) and the recently developed alternative methods for the lipophilic marine toxins is given. These alternative methods are based on functional assays, biochemical assays and chemical methods. From the literature it is clear that chemical methods offer the best potential to replace the animal tests that are still legislated worldwide. Finally, an overview is given of the situation of marine toxins in The Netherlands. The rat bioassay has been used for monitoring DSP and AZP toxins in The Netherlands since the 1970s. Nowadays, a combination of a chemical method and the rat bioassay is often used. In The Netherlands toxic events are mainly caused by DSP toxins, which have been found in Dutch shellfish for the first time in 1961, and have reoccurred at irregular intervals and in varying concentrations. From this review it is clear that considerable effort is being undertaken by various research groups to phase out the animal tests that are still used for the official routine monitoring programs.

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