Azaspiracid poisoning, the food-borne illness associated with shellfish consumption

K J James, M J Fidalgo Sáez, A Furey, M Lehane
Food Additives and Contaminants 2004, 21 (9): 879-92
Azaspiracid poisoning (AZP) is a recently discovered toxic syndrome that was identified following severe gastrointestinal illness from the consumption of contaminated mussels (Mytilus edulis). The implicated toxins, azaspiracids, are polyethers with unprecedented structural features. Studies toward total toxin synthesis revealed that the initial published structures were incorrect and they have now been revised. These toxins accumulate in bivalve molluscs that feed on toxic microalgae of the genus Protoperidinium, previously considered to be toxicologically benign. Although first identified in shellfish from Ireland, azaspiracid contamination of several types of bivalve shellfish species has now been confirmed throughout the western coastline of Europe. Toxicological studies have indicated that azaspiracids can induce widespread organ damage in mice and that they are probably more dangerous than previously known classes of shellfish toxins. The exclusive reliance on live animal bioassays to monitor azaspiracids in shellfish failed to prevent human intoxications. This was a consequence of poor sensitivity of the assay and the fact that azaspiracids are not exclusively found in the shellfish digestive glands used for toxin testing. The strict regulatory control of azaspiracids in shellfish now requires frequent testing of shellfish using highly specific and sensitive methods involving liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.

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