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7b-2010: The presence of pinnatoxins in Norwegian mussels

Naturally occurring algal toxins can cause poisoning in humans when they accumulate in shellfish destined for consumption.The National Veterinary Institute now identified a hitherto unknown algal toxin in Norwegian waters that could pose a potential problem.

Pinnatoxins and pteriatoxins are toxins that were first identified by Japanese researchers in 1995, after a poisoning incident in China in 1990. It is still uncertain whether these toxins were the cause of this episode, and toxic effects on humans are unknown. These substances are structurally similar to the more familiar spirolides, produced by dinoflagellates including Alexandrium ostenfeldii that is frequently detected in Norwegian waters.

The National Veterinary Institute has established a sensitive analytical method for determination of pinnatoxins and spirolides. After chemical analysis of shellfish and algal extracts, toxins of the pinnatoxin group were found in shellfish and algal samples along the whole of the Norwegian coast. This is the first time that pinnatoxins has been detected in Europe.

Pinnatoxins give high mortality at low doses, not just by intraperitoneal (ip) injection, but also when mice eat the toxin.

The alga that produces pinnatoxin G is still unknown, but researchers in New Zealand have managed to culture a new type of dinoflagellate that produces pinnatoxin F.

There is no knowledge about the metabolism and detoxification of pinnatoxins in various species of shellfish in Norway, and it is also important to establish knowledge on its mechanisms of action, how dangerous pinnatoxins are in seafood, and the possible limits.