Jan 29, 2009

Science - Seafood safety: scientists replicate deadly toxin

PARIS (AFP) – Scientists have for the first time replicated an elusive seafood toxin found in shellfish and certain algae that can cause illness and even death, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The achievement opens the way to tests to detect the poison and should boost efforts to find an antidote, the researchers said.

Chlorosulpholipids are complex molecules that form inside the cell membranes of host organisms. In nature, they exist only in minute quantities, and this has stalled efforts to study their origins and effects.

The toxin was isolated in algae in the 1960s and was discovered in shellfish for the first time in 2001, in mussels farmed in the Adriatic off the coast of Italy.

In the study, a trio of scientists at the Organic Chemistry Laboratory in Switzerland, led by Erick Carreira, cracked the chemical code of the toxin in a series of experiments, making it possible to reproduce the compound.

"The concise synthesis can provide enough material for biological and pharmacological studies," said the study, published in the London-based journal Nature.

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