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Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Apr;113(4):461-4.

Domoic acid transfer to milk: evaluation of a potential route of neonatal exposure.

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Marine Biotoxins Program, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Ocean Service, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA.


Domoic acid (DA), produced by the diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia, is a glutamate analog and a neurotoxin in humans. During diatom blooms, DA can contaminate filter-feeding organisms, such as shellfish, and can be transferred by ingestion to higher trophic levels. Several intoxication events involving both humans and various marine mammals have been attributed to DA. Affected organisms show neurological symptoms such as seizures, ataxia, headweaving, and stereotypic scratching, as well as prolonged deficits in memory and learning. Neonatal animals have been shown to be substantially more sensitive to DA than adults. However, it has not been demonstrated whether DA can be transferred to nursing young from DA-exposed mothers. This study demonstrates transfer of DA from spiked milk (0.3 and 1.0 mg/kg) to the plasma of nursing neonatal rats and an overall longer DA retention in milk than in plasma after 8 hr in exposed dams. DA was detectable in milk up to 24 hr after exposure (1.0 mg/kg) of the mothers, although the amount of DA transferred to milk after exposure was not sufficient to cause acute symptoms in neonates.

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