First finding of Ostreopsis cf. ovata toxins in marine aerosols

Patrizia Ciminiello, Carmela Dell'Aversano, Emma Dello Iacovo, Ernesto Fattorusso, Martino Forino, Luciana Tartaglione, Gioia Benedettini, Marzia Onorari, Fabrizio Serena, Cecilia Battocchi, Silvia Casabianca, Antonella Penna
Environmental Science & Technology 2014 March 18, 48 (6): 3532-40
Since the late 1990s, a respiratory syndrome has been repetitively observed in humans concomitant with Ostreopsis spp. blooms (mainly O. cf. ovata) in the Mediterranean area. Previous studies have demonstrated that O. cf. ovata produces analogues of palytoxin (ovatoxins and a putative palytoxin), one of the most potent marine toxins. On the basis of the observed association between O. cf. ovata blooms, respiratory illness in people, and detection of palytoxin complex in algal samples, toxic aerosols, containing Ostreopsis cells and/or the toxins they produce, were postulated to be the cause of human illness. A small scale monitoring study of marine aerosol carried out along the Tuscan coasts (Italy) in 2009 and 2010 is reported. Aerosols were collected concomitantly with O. cf. ovata blooms, and they were analyzed by both PCR assays and LC-HRMS. The results, besides confirming the presence of O. cf. ovata cells, demonstrated for the first time the occurrence of ovatoxins in the aerosol at levels of 2.4 pg of ovatoxins per liter of air. Given the lack of toxicological data on palytoxins by inhalation exposure, our results are only a first step toward a more comprehensive understanding of the Ostreopsis-related respiratory syndrome.

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