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Essays Biochem. 2016 Jun 30;60(1):49-58. doi: 10.1042/EBC20150006.

Use of biosensors for the detection of marine toxins.

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School of Biotechnology, Dublin City University, Dublin 9, Ireland.
VP, Chief Technology Officer, MBio Diagnostics, Inc., 5603 Arapahoe Avenue, Suite 1, Boulder, CO 80303, U.S.A.
Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, 5735 Hitchner Hall Room 288 Orono, ME 04469, U.S.A.
NOAA/National Ocean Service, 219 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412, U.S.A.
School of Biotechnology, Dublin City University, Dublin 9, Ireland Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, Dublin City University, Dublin 9, Ireland


Increasing occurrences of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the ocean are a major concern for countries around the globe, and with strong links between HABs and climate change and eutrophication, the occurrences are only set to increase. Of particular concern with regard to HABs is the presence of toxin-producing algae. Six major marine biotoxin groups are associated with HABs. Ingestion of such toxins via contaminated shellfish, fish, or other potential vectors, can lead to intoxication syndromes with moderate to severe symptoms, including death in extreme cases. There are also major economic implications associated with the diverse effects of marine biotoxins and HABs. Thus, effective monitoring programmes are required to manage and mitigate their detrimental global effect. However, currently legislated detection methods are labour-intensive, expensive and relatively slow. The growing field of biosensor diagnostic devices is an exciting area that has the potential to produce robust, easy-to-use, cost-effective, rapid and accurate detection methods for marine biotoxins and HABs. This review discusses recently developed biosensor assays that target marine biotoxins and their microbial producers, both in harvested fish/shellfish samples and in the open ocean. The effective deployment of such biosensor platforms could address the pressing need for improved monitoring of HABs and marine biotoxins, and could help to reduce their global economic impact.


biosensors; harmful algal blooms; marine biotoxins; marine monitoring; shellfish poisoning

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