What are the Effects of Cyanotoxins?
Cyanotoxins have a wide range of effects as hepatotoxins, neurotoxins, dermatoxins, and endotoxins. Symptoms vary depending on exposure route, duration, and toxin type/concentration.
Hepatotoxins damage the liver. Microcystin, Cylindrospermopsin, and Nodularin are hepatotoxins. Symptoms of exposure to hepatotoxins include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, liver inflammation, hemorrhaging, lesions, acute pneumonia, and death (within hours to days after exposure). Human cases are often reported from drinking water as well as ingestion of untreated/raw water, contact during recreational activities, and hemodialysis with toxin-laden water.
Neurotoxins are nerve toxins and include Anatoxin-a, Anatoxin-a(s), and Saxitoxins. Symptoms of exposure to neurotoxins include tingling, burning, numbness, drowsiness, staggering, incoherent speech, gasping, convulsions, and respiratory paralysis leading to death (within minutes to hours after exposure). Human deaths have been associated with shellfish consumption (saxitoxins). However, humans can be exposed to these toxins via recreational contact as well. Animal deaths, especially dogs, have been associated with recreational exposure. There is limited data available on neurotoxin exposure via drinking water.
Dermatoxins are skin toxins and include Lyngbyatoxin-a, Aplysiatoxin, and Lipopolysaccharides. Symptoms of exposure to dermatoxins are similar to swimmer’s itch and include skin rashes and eye irritations.
Cyanobacteria cell walls contain an endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide) that can irritate any exposed tissue and are capable of eliciting an immune response, including gastrointestinal distress and fever, when exposed to the intestines.