Well, we’ve come to the 5th and final installment of the HAB Five. Have I saved the best for last? At first I didn’t think so. I mean, what more can we say about the toxin that everyone seems to have said something about in the past year? Yet when I searched for some quirky and interesting tidbits about microcystin, the internet (and some friends in the biz) did not disappoint. So bidding farewell to the HAB Five series, here are your five fun facts about microcystin:
- Before they called it microcystin, scientists called it cyanoginosin. And before that…fast-death factor! This was due to its effect on mice. (Example: J.Biochem.Physiol.,1959, 37:453).
- Microcystin: It’s not just for lakes anymore. Ulla Kaasalainen of the University of Helsinki found microcystin that was produced on land—in lichens! A lichen is a symbiotic association of a fungus and an algae (or cyanobacterium), and it appeared that the cyanobacterial partners in these lichens were making the toxin (PNAS, 2012, 109:5886).
- Think you’re tough? You’re probably not as tough as microcystin. We and other scientists have shown that you can boil this toxin—and it remains intact!
- This one’s not so fun: the only human deaths that have been clearly associated with microcystin poisoning occurred at a dialysis center in Brazil in 1996. The concentration of toxin was 19.5 times higher than the drinking water advisory levels provided by the World Health Organization (Carmichael et al., 2001, Hlth.Perspectives, 109:663).
- Microcystin is truly a global toxin—it has even been produced by cyanobacteria isolated from an Arctic biocrust! (Chrapusta et al., Toxicon, 2015, 101:35)
So, as the 2015 HAB season looms, we will now move on to other blog topics. Follow us on FB, twitter, and LI to see our blogs and other news and announcements about HABs!