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UT on front line of microcystin research (via The Blade)

Every summer, we read news about harmful algal blooms threatening Toledo’s water supply. These blooms, which are a serious problem worldwide, can make the water unfit for all uses, risking the health of humans and animals alike. In the past few decades, the intensity and number of toxic algal blooms, and the associated economic impacts have increased throughout the world.

What is an algal bloom? Algal blooms are made up of cyanobacteria, a class of bacteria that obtains energy by photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria were first described as blue-green algae because of the plant-like blue-green color of the algal blooms. Cyanobacteria also feed off of sewage treatment plants, agricultural, and storm water run-offs that contain high amounts of molecules of nitrogen and phosphorus, also important food to these bacteria.

In addition, air and water temperature, and even the mixing of water layers can aid these notorious cyanobacterial blooms.

Specific species of cyanobacteria produce a toxic molecule called microcystin, which is one of the most common cyanobacterial toxins found in the Great Lakes. Cyanobacteria can produce other toxic molecules too, but microcystins are of highest concern...read more.