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Metabolisation and transfer of marine toxins from algae to edible molluscs

Period: January 2012 till December 2015
Status: Completed

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The occurrence of toxic algae in the marine environment has significantly increased during the last decades. Filter-feeding shellfish such as mussels and oysters consume these algae leading to an introduction of the algal toxins into the food chain. In this way they may reach human consumers resulting in well-known poisoning effects. In particular, lipophilic algal toxins have been shown to exhibit the highest potency for shellfish contamination and food chain accumulation in Europe. The major environmental conditions that influence the algal toxin production with respect to their final fate in marine organisms remain however largely unknown. This information is urgently needed to allow risk evaluations of the ecosystem transfer and stability and consumer protection in terms of food contamination. Therefore, the major goal of this project is to gain more insight in the different processes that affect the life cycle of the lipophilic marine toxins in the North Sea region. To this end, the ecological factors that influence marine toxin production, both in terms of concentration and product profile, in the most important region-specific algae species (in particular Dinophysis sp.), will be evaluated. Subsequently, a characterisation of all relevant marine toxins and their metabolites in shellfish - as the primary consumer of algae - is envisaged.
To realize these objectives, a sound analytical support, enabling both targeted quantification and untargeted screening of marine algal toxins and metabolites, using high-end mass spectrometric devices will form the basis.

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