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Mar Drugs. 2008 May 28;6(2):180-219. doi: 10.3390/md20080010.

Domoic acid toxicologic pathology: a review.

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Bureau of Chemical Safety, Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada, 251 Sir Frederick Banting Dr., 2202D2, Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa, ON, Canada.


Domoic acid was identified as the toxin responsible for an outbreak of human poisoning that occurred in Canada in 1987 following consumption of contaminated blue mussels [Mytilus edulis]. The poisoning was characterized by a constellation of clinical symptoms and signs. Among the most prominent features described was memory impairment which led to the name Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning [ASP]. Domoic acid is produced by certain marine organisms, such as the red alga Chondria armata and planktonic diatom of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia. Since 1987, monitoring programs have been successful in preventing other human incidents of ASP. However, there are documented cases of domoic acid intoxication in wild animals and outbreaks of coastal water contamination in many regions world-wide. Hence domoic acid continues to pose a global risk to the health and safety of humans and wildlife. Several mechanisms have been implicated as mediators for the effects of domoic acid. Of particular importance is the role played by glutamate receptors as mediators of excitatory neurotransmission and the demonstration of a wide distribution of these receptors outside the central nervous system, prompting the attention to other tissues as potential target sites. The aim of this document is to provide a comprehensive review of ASP, DOM induced pathology including ultrastructural changes associated to subchronic oral exposure, and discussion of key proposed mechanisms of cell/tissue injury involved in DOM induced brain pathology and considerations relevant to food safety and human health.


Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning; Domoic Acid; Excitotoxicity; Food Safety; Glutamate Receptors; Neuropathology; Neurotoxicology; Toxicologic Pathology

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