Conventional laboratory methods for cyanotoxins.

Research paper by Linda A LA Lawton, C C Edwards

Indexed on: 09 May '08Published on: 09 May '08Published in: Advances in experimental medicine and biology


It is clear from the literature that numerous methods are available for most cyanotoxins, although many publications on monitoring data indicate that the favored approach is the use proven, robust methods for individual toxins. The most effective approach is the utilization of a robust rapid screen, where positive samples are followed up by qualitative and quantitative analysis to provide the essential decision making data needed for successful management strategies (Fig. 2). Currently, rapid screens are available for microcystins, saxitoxins and anatoxin-a(s), whilst optimisation and validation is needed, many publications report good correlation with the mouse bioassay and HPLC. There is an urgent need for rapid, simple, and inexpensive assays for cylindrospermopsins, anatoxin-a and BMAA. Although methods exist for analysis of BMAA, the fact that a recent study showed 95% of cyanobacteria producing this, some at levels > 6,000 microg g(-1) dry wt, is of concern and rapid screening followed by robust analysis needed. An ideal approach would be a single method capable of extracting and detecting all cyanotoxins. Several publications describe such approaches using LC-MS, but as expected from a group of compounds with diverse chemistry, there are obvious limitations in recoveries during sample processing, chromatographic performance and sensitivity (Dahlmann et al. 2003, Dell'Aversano et al. 2004, Pietsch et al. 2001). Selection of methods must be based on the application requirements, equipment available and cost. For many organisations it may be more cost effective to out-source the occasional analysis. However, as the incidence of blooms appears to be increasing, the need for more rigorous monitoring is needed, sensible investment is needed to meet recommended guidelines. Most of the methods discussed in this paper are suitable for achieving this goal, although clean-up and concentration is usually necessary for physicochemical methods.