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Cyanobacteria, Their Toxins and Associations with Dinosaur Deaths and Human...
Tue 28 March 2017, 17:30 – 18:30 BST
Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) are ancient, cosmopolitan microbes. They were responsible for transforming the early Earth’s atmosphere to permit the support of all oxygen-requiring life today. Their biotechnological potential is of high current interest, for example in harvesting solar energy to produce biofuels, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and producing novel pharmaceuticals. On the “minus side” of the balance sheet are the economic, aesthetic, safety and health impacts of increasing populations cyanobacteria in our water resources. These negative impacts are partly due to the production of a wide range of potent toxins (cyanotoxins). An astounding range of cyanotoxins is emerging of several hundred molecular structures with, for example, hepatotoxic, neurotoxic, genotoxic, tumour-promoting and inflammatory actions. Toxic cyanobacterial blooms and scums are considered as contributing to the mass mortalities of multiple species of dinosaurs at a lakeside site in Montana, USA, and of early mammals as evidenced in European shale deposits. A growing catalogue, beginning at least 330 years ago, exists of animal and human poisonings associated with cyanobacterial mass populations; in several instances with particular cyanotoxins. Human cases, in at least 11 countries including the UK, have been documented. Research on specific cyanotoxins associated with human liver cancer and neurodegenerative disease will be discussed. Policy development and implementation to protect water resources for human and animal usage, from international to local level, includes the risk management of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins. The continuing effectiveness of these protection measures, both reactive and preventative, will undoubtedly continue to require ready communication with cyanobacterial and cyanotoxin researchers.
Bio: Geoff is Emeritus Professor of Microbiology at the University of Dundee. He is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Stirling and Adjunct Professor at Flinders University, Australia. For the last 35 years he has investigated toxic cyanobacterial (blue-green algal) blooms, particularly their toxins (production, properties, health effects and control). His laboratory has served as a centre for cyanobacterial toxin analysis and toxicity assessment for several national water authorities, environmental and health agencies, for the risk management of water resources and associated activities. He has been a member of several national and international working parties on cyanobacterial toxins, including the World Health Organisation and UNESCO. Geoff is a former President of the British Phycological Society and of the Federation of European Phycological Societies He currently serves on the steering committees of UK and European Union programs on the risk management of cyanobacterial blooms and toxins and is co-editing a major handbook on their monitoring, analysis and risk management.