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Cause of mussel poisoning identified
Date:3/24/2009

cies 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.


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Contact: Ude Cieluch
ude.cieluch@awi.de
49-471-483-12008
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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