Scientists develop new test to quickly detect harmful algal toxins in urine

If someone has symptoms that may be caused by harmful algal toxin, be sure to know as soon as possible if it is the culprit. New urine testing methods may soon help. During the proliferation of algae, too many blue bacteria produce toxic peptides (amino acid short chains). Two of the most common are called microcystic algal toxins and nodule proteins. They enter waterways, where wildlife and humans can eat or ingest them.

Scientists develop new test to quickly detect harmful algal toxins in urine

For humans, some of the resulting symptoms may include gastroenteritis, nausea, allergic reactions and rashes – in extreme cases, liver damage and bleeding.

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), in collaboration with researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently evaluated a system that can quickly detect microcystic algal toxin and nodule bacteria in human urine. The technique, known as the immunocapture protein phosphatase inhibition assays (IC-PPIA), uses existing commercially available antibodies to isolate two target peptides from the urine, so that their levels can then be measured.

The system was recently used to analyze 86 urine samples collected by algae blooms in 2018 from residents of St. Lucie, Florida, the Indus River, Palm Beach and Martin Counties. The system can accurately detect low levels of toxins in samples from three people known to have been exposed to the peptide.

“This new test can even detect low-dose human exposure to microcystic algal toxin and nodule mycocin, so it will be important when we study the long-term health effects of harmful algal blooms, especially when the human body inhales the low levels of mercury exposed.” Adam Schaefer, an FAU epidemiologist involved in the study, said. “This approach complements the water monitoring process by identifying human exposure to these toxins during outbreaks of harmful algal blooms, and will help our ongoing research to shed light on the health effects associated with algal blooms.” “

A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Toxins.