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: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Media Relations Director
National Sea Grant College Program
Web site: http://www.seagrantnews.org