Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Toxins


Sharks have greater risk for bioaccumulation of marine toxins and mercury (Hg), because they are long-lived predators. Shark fins and cartilage also contain β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA), a ubiquitous cyanobacterial toxin linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Today, a significant number of shark species have found their way onto the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Many species of large sharks are threatened with extinction due in part to the growing high demand for shark fin soup and, to a lesser extent, for shark meat and cartilage products. Recent studies suggest that the consumption of shark parts may be a route to human exposure of marine toxins. Here, we investigated BMAA and Hg concentrations in fins and muscles sampled in ten species of sharks from the South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. BMAA was detected in all shark species with only seven of the 55 samples analyzed testing below the limit of detection of the assay. Hg concentrations measured in fins and muscle samples from the 10 species ranged from 0.05 to 13.23 ng/mg. These analytical test results suggest restricting human consumption of shark meat and fins due to the high frequency and co-occurrence of two synergistic environmental neurotoxic compounds.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Toxin, Shark, Neurotoxin, IUCN Red List, Sharks, Shark finning, Shark fin soup


Stings from the hydrozoan species in the genus Physalia cause intense, immediate skin pain and elicit serious systemic effects. There has been much scientific debate about the most appropriate first aid for these stings, particularly with regard to whether vinegar use is appropriate (most current recommendations recommend against vinegar). We found that only a small percentage (≤1.0%) of tentacle cnidae discharge during a sting event using an ex vivo tissue model which elicits spontaneous stinging from live cnidarian tentacles. We then tested a variety of rinse solutions on both Atlantic and Pacific Physalia species to determine if they elicit cnidae discharge, further investigating any that did not cause immediate significant discharge to determine if they are able to inhibit cnidae discharge in response to chemical and physical stimuli. We found commercially available vinegars, as well as the recently developed Sting No More(®) Spray, were the most effective rinse solutions, as they irreversibly inhibited cnidae discharge. However, even slight dilution of vinegar reduced its protective effects. Alcohols and folk remedies, such as urine, baking soda and shaving cream, caused varying amounts of immediate cnidae discharge and failed to inhibit further discharge, and thus likely worsen stings.

Concepts: Effectiveness, Jellyfish, Stinger, Vinegar, Sodium bicarbonate, Hydrozoa, STING


Fish venoms are often poorly studied, in part due to the difficulty in obtaining, extracting, and storing them. In this study, we characterize the cardiovascular and neurotoxic effects of the venoms from the following six species of fish: the cartilaginous stingrays Neotrygon kuhlii and Himantura toshi, and the bony fish Platycephalus fucus, Girella tricuspidata, Mugil cephalus, and Dentex tumifrons. All venoms (10-100 μg/kg, i.v.), except G. tricuspidata and P. fuscus, induced a biphasic response on mean arterial pressure (MAP) in the anesthetised rat. P. fucus venom exhibited a hypotensive response, while venom from G. tricuspidata displayed a single depressor response. All venoms induced cardiovascular collapse at 200 μg/kg, i.v. The in vitro neurotoxic effects of venom were examined using the chick biventer cervicis nerve-muscle (CBCNM) preparation. N. kuhlii, H. toshi, and P. fucus venoms caused concentration-dependent inhibition of indirect twitches in the CBCNM preparation. These three venoms also inhibited responses to exogenous acetylcholine (ACh) and carbachol (CCh), but not potassium chloride (KCl), indicating a post-synaptic mode of action. Venom from G. tricuspidata, M. cephalus, and D. tumifrons had no significant effect on indirect twitches or agonist responses in the CBCNM. Our results demonstrate that envenoming by these species of fish may result in moderate cardiovascular and/or neurotoxic effects. Future studies aimed at identifying the molecules responsible for these effects could uncover potentially novel lead compounds for future pharmaceuticals, in addition to generating new knowledge about the evolutionary relationships between venomous animals.

Concepts: Fish, Blood pressure, Potassium, Venom, Lionfish


Cnidarian envenomations are an important public health problem, responsible for more deaths than shark attacks annually. For this reason, optimization of first-aid care is essential. According to the published literature, cnidarian venoms and toxins are heat labile at temperatures safe for human application, which supports the use of hot-water immersion of the sting area(s). However, ice packs are often recommended and used by emergency personnel. After conducting a systematic review of the evidence for the use of heat or ice in the treatment of cnidarian envenomations, we conclude that the majority of studies to date support the use of hot-water immersion for pain relief and improved health outcomes.

Concepts: Health care, Health, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Heat, First aid, Suffering, Emergency, The Sting


While snake venoms have been the subject of intense study, comparatively little work has been done on lizard venoms. In this study, we have examined the structural and functional diversification of anguimorph lizard venoms and associated toxins, and related these results to dentition and predatory ecology. Venom composition was shown to be highly variable across the 20 species of Heloderma, Lanthanotus, and Varanus included in our study. While kallikrein enzymes were ubiquitous, they were also a particularly multifunctional toxin type, with differential activities on enzyme substrates and also ability to degrade alpha or beta chains of fibrinogen that reflects structural variability. Examination of other toxin types also revealed similar variability in their presence and activity levels. The high level of venom chemistry variation in varanid lizards compared to that of helodermatid lizards suggests that venom may be subject to different selection pressures in these two families. These results not only contribute to our understanding of venom evolution but also reveal anguimorph lizard venoms to be rich sources of novel bioactive molecules with potential as drug design and development lead compounds.

Concepts: Squamata, Komodo dragon, Venom, Snake, Monitor lizard, Anguimorpha, Heloderma, Scleroglossa


It has previously been shown that the biosynthesis of the mycotoxins ochratoxin A and B and of citrinin by Penicillium is regulated by light. However, not only the biosynthesis of these mycotoxins, but also the molecules themselves are strongly affected by light of certain wavelengths. The white light and blue light of 470 and 455 nm are especially able to degrade ochratoxin A, ochratoxin B and citrinin after exposure for a certain time. After the same treatment of the secondary metabolites with red (627 nm), yellow (590 nm) or green (530 nm) light or in the dark, almost no degradation occurred during that time indicating the blue light as the responsible part of the spectrum. The two derivatives of ochratoxin (A and B) are degraded to certain definitive degradation products which were characterized by HPLC-FLD-FTMS. The degradation products of ochratoxin A and B did no longer contain phenylalanine however were still chlorinated in the case of ochratoxin A. Citrinin is completely degraded by blue light. A fluorescent band was no longer visible after detection by TLC suggesting a higher sensitivity and apparently greater absorbance of energy by citrinin. The fact that especially blue light degrades the three secondary metabolites is apparently attributed to the absorption spectra of the metabolites which all have an optimum in the short wave length range. The absorption range of citrinin is, in particular, broader and includes the wave length of blue light. In wheat, which was contaminated with an ochratoxin A producing culture of Penicillium verrucosum and treated with blue light after a pre-incubation by the fungus, the concentration of the preformed ochratoxin A reduced by roughly 50% compared to the control and differed by > 90% compared to the sample incubated further in the dark. This indicates that the light degrading effect is also exerted in vivo, e.g., on food surfaces. The biological consequences of the light instability of the toxins are discussed.

Concepts: Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Mycotoxin, Wavelength, Penicillium, Visible spectrum, Ochratoxin, Mycotoxins


Ca(v)2.2 is a calcium channel subtype localized at nerve terminals, including nociceptive fibers, where it initiates neurotransmitter release. Ca(v)2.2 is an important contributor to synaptic transmission in ascending pain pathways, and is up-regulated in the spinal cord in chronic pain states along with the auxiliary α2δ1 subunit. It is therefore not surprising that toxins that inhibit Ca(v)2.2 are analgesic. Venomous animals, such as cone snails, spiders, snakes, assassin bugs, centipedes and scorpions are rich sources of remarkably potent and selective Ca(v)2.2 inhibitors. However, side effects in humans currently limit their clinical use. Here we review Ca(v)2.2 inhibitors from venoms and their potential as drug leads.

Concepts: Pain, Toxin, Venom, Scorpion, Snake, Apitoxin, Toxins, Spider bite


Grape berries attacked by Lobesia botrana larvae are more easily infected by Aspergillus section Nigri (black aspergilli) ochratoxigenic species. Two-year field trials were carried out in Apulia (Italy) to evaluate a bioinsecticide control strategy against L. botrana and the indirect effect on reducing ochratoxin A (OTA) contamination in vineyards. A commercial Bacillus thuringiensis formulate and an experimental Beauveria bassiana (ITEM-1559) formulate were tested in two vineyards cultivated with the same grape variety, Negroamaro, but with two different training systems (espalier and little-arbor techniques). In both years and training systems the treatments by B. bassiana ITEM-1559 significantly controlled L. botrana larvae attacks with effectiveness similar to B. thuringensis (more than 20%). A significant reduction of OTA concentrations (up to 80% compared to untreated controls) was observed only in the first year in both training systems, when the metereological parameters prior to harvest were more favorable to the insect attack. Results of field trials showed that B. bassiana ITEM-1559 is a valid bioinsecticide against L. botrana and that grape moth biocontrol is a strategy to reduce OTA contamination in vineyard in seasons with heavy natural infestation.

Concepts: Insect, Mycotoxin, Attack, Bacillus thuringiensis, Biological pest control, Attack!, Viticulture, Beauveria bassiana


Cylindrospermopsin (CYN) is a cytotoxic alkaloid produced by cyanobacteria. The distribution of this toxin is expanding around the world and the number of cyanobacteria species producing this toxin is also increasing. CYN was detected for the first time in Turkey during the summer months of 2013. The responsible species were identified as Dolichospermum (Anabaena) mendotae and Chrysosporum (Aphanizomenon) ovalisporum. The D. mendotae increased in May, however, C. ovalisporum formed a prolonged bloom in August. CYN concentrations were measured by LC-MS/MS and ranged from 0.12 µg·mg-1 to 4.92 µg·mg-1 as dry weight, respectively. Both species were the only cyanobacteria actively growing and CYN production was attributed solely to these species. Despite CYN production by C. ovalisporum being a well-known phenomenon, to our knowledge, this is the first report of CYN found in D. mendotae bloom.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Cyanotoxin, Cylindrospermopsin


Lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) stings cause severe pain and can lead to dangerous systemic effects, including Irukandji-like syndrome. As is the case for most cnidarian stings, recommended medical protocols in response to such stings lack rigorous scientific support. In this study, we sought to evaluate potential first aid care protocols using previously described envenomation models that allow for direct measurements of venom activity. We found that seawater rinsing, the most commonly recommended method of tentacle removal for this species, induced significant increases in venom delivery, while rinsing with vinegar or Sting No More(®) Spray did not. Post-sting temperature treatments affected sting severity, with 40 min of hot-pack treatment reducing lysis of sheep’s blood (in agar plates), a direct representation of venom load, by over 90%. Ice pack treatment had no effect on sting severity. These results indicate that sting management protocols for Cyanea need to be revised immediately to discontinue rinsing with seawater and include the use of heat treatment.

Concepts: In vivo, In vitro, Cnidaria, Jellyfish, Lion's mane jellyfish, Tentacle, Cyaneidae, Cyanea