Marine biotoxins: types of poisoning, underlying mechanisms of action and risk management programmes

Albertinka J. Murk, Jonathan Nicolas, Frans J.M. Smulders, Christine Bürk, Arjen Gerssen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Over the past decades, accumulation of phycotoxins (toxins from marine algae) in shellfish and other marine biotoxins in seafood has received increasing attention. The latter is largely due to the greater number of algal blooms, the poisoning symptoms in humans resulting from ‘new’ biotoxins in areas where they had until recently not been observed and, finally, the discovery of new, highly potent toxins. The most frequently detected marine biotoxins represent a chemically very heterogeneous group of phycotoxins, the toxicity of which is generally related to a specific interaction of these toxins with ion channels of excitable membranes. Besides these neurotoxins, inhibitors of protein phosphatases have been described. On the basis of the clinical symptoms observed, we distinguish two groups of marine biotoxins: (1) diarrhetic shellfish poisoning toxins; and (2) marine neurotoxic biotoxins that can be found in seafood. In addition, primarily prevalent in fresh water, toxins can be synthesized by cyanobacteria that are also classified as algal toxins. These toxins, which exert hepatotoxic or neurotoxic effects, are mainly relevant as potential contaminants of drinking water and food supplements and are not included in this chapter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChemical hazards in foods of animal origin
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868773
ISBN (Print)9789086863266
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2019

Publication series

NameChemical hazards in foods of animal origin
ISSN (Print)1871-9295


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