Phytoxigene, A future in marine and fresh water toxicology:
Toxic bloom-forming cyanobacteria are a global health hazard (Fig. 1). These photosynthetic microorganisms produce a suite of secondary metabolite toxins including hepatotoxins such as microcystin, nodularin and cylindrospermopsin and neurotoxins such as saxitoxin. These toxins can threaten the safety of drinking water supplies and in the case of saxitoxin, can accumulate to dangerous levels in shellfish, affecting the seafood industry.
Cyanotoxins are produced by many strains of cyanobacteria spanning multiple genera, however, as toxicity is not uniform among strains or morphotypes, conventional bacteriological classification methods are unable to accurately predict toxicity.
Direct measurements of cyanotoxins in water or seafood samples using bioassays and chemo-analytical methods are often laborious, costly and require specialised equipment. Furthermore, they are only applicable once the toxins are already present in the water above a certain detection threshold. Molecular methods, on the other hand, are able to detect toxigenic cyanobacteria before they produce and release their toxins into a water body. Thus, molecular methods may be employed as an early warning system capable of predicting the composition and potential toxicity of a bloom before it becomes problematic.