"Dipstick" Methods Will Improve, Speed Drinking Water Tests
From: National Sea Grant College Program
Tuesday, August 20, 2002


Drinking water may become even safer thanks to new testing methods that detect cyanobacteria toxins more easily. New York Sea Grant scientist Gregory Boyer is developing tools to measure anatoxin-a, a bioactive toxin produced by blue-green algae and found in freshwater lakes. His multi-step laboratory approach builds upon previous work in which Boyer successfully developed a method to detect another harmful toxin caused by red tides in the ocean. This method detected saxitoxin, the toxin responsible for causing paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, in humans who consume shellfish exposed to the toxic algae.

In freshwater systems, harmful blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can make either saxitoxin or anatoxin-a and threaten the health of drinking water supplies. Boyer has recently finished extensive testing for these toxins in Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario and other freshwater sources. Current methods of detecting anatoxin-a are time-consuming and expensive. Boyer's research will simplify the testing process by developing an antibody or "dipstick" style test to monitor for these toxins. "Our goal is to develop effective monitoring measures that can be employed by water quality managers, conservation agents and health officials to rapidly screen for the presence of cyanobacteria," said Boyer. Results should offer improved testing methods for drinking water and provide data on the cyanobacteria toxin occurrence and its effect on freshwater ecosystems.
CONTACT: Gregory Boyer, New York Sea Grant Research Scientist, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, (O) 315-470-6825, Email: glboyer@esf.edu

For more information, contact:
Ben Sherman
National Media Relations Director
National Sea Grant College Program
Web site: http://www.seagrantnews.org