Marine toxins are naturally occurring chemicals that can contaminate certain seafood. The seafood contaminated with these chemicals frequently looks, smells, and tastes normal. When humans eat such seafood, disease can result. The most common diseases caused by marine toxins in United States in order of incidence are scombrotoxic fish poisoning, ciguatera poisoning, paralytic shellfish poisoning, neurotoxic shellfish poisoning and amnesic shellfish poisoning.
Marine toxins are produced by algae or bacteria and are concentrated in contaminated seafood. Substantial increases in seafood consumption in recent years, together with globalization of the seafood trade, have increased potential exposure to these agents. Marine toxins produce neurological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular syndromes, some of which result in high mortality and long-term morbidity. Routine clinical diagnostic tests are not available for these toxins; diagnosis is based on clinical presentation and a history of eating seafood in the preceding 24 h.
Diagnosis of marine toxin poisoning is generally based on symptoms and a history of recently eating a particular kind of seafood. Laboratory testing for the specific toxin in patient samples is generally not necessary because this requires special techniques and equipment available in only specialized laboratories.
The statistical analysis indicated that some taxa exhibited temporal increasing trends in their abundance (e.g. Pseudo-nitzschia spp.), significant decrements (e.g. Dinophysis sp.), or both increasing and decreasing significant trends (e.g. A. minutum) at different sites, indicating the necessity of further in-depth studies, especially on certain taxa. Overall, the statistical elaboration of the long-term data provided useful signals for early detection of shellfish contamination by different potentially toxic HAS in defined sites. These signals can be used to develop best management practices.
Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin responsible for many human fatalities, most commonly following the consumption of pufferfish. Whilst the source of the toxin has not been conclusively proven, it is thought to be associated with various species of marine bacteria. Whilst the toxins are well studied in fish and gastropods, in recent years, there have been a number of reports of tetrodotoxin occurring in bivalve shellfish, including those harvested from the UK and other parts of Europe.