Researchers recently developed a new approach so that blue-green algae won't reach their dangerous levels and become harmful to the environment.
A Phys.org report specified that this new tool that researchers at the Culture Collection of Algae & Protozoa or CCAP developed can detect early indications of hazardous blue-green algae, which blossom in lakes, reservoirs, and rivers over the world.
Also called cyanobacteria, blue-green algae present significant environmental issues. Large-scale blooms and break-outs are spreading across bodies of water, reducing the oxygen supply and decreasing light, killing fish, as well as other aquatic creatures.
More so, some algae can yield toxins that are dangerous to both animals and humans. Detecting such blooms at an adequately early stage to stop them from reaching hazardous levels is not straightforward due to the thousands of different algae species that could exist.
As algae are an essential part of lots of water systems, only those species that turn hazardous may need such preventative measures.
The University of Birmingham's School of Biosciences researchers have developed this new approach using mass spectrometry, a method of determining specific molecules by their mass, to detect key protein features within the algae described as unique to every species allowing them to be identified quickly.
Essentially, through the use of recently developed, high-resolution approaches, the research team discovered they could generate highly particular fingerprints that correspond to particular cyanobacterial species.
In addition to that, the approach is successful in determining combinations of different cyanobacteria at what the researchers described in their work as "low pre-bloom" concentrations.
Meaning, the cyanobacteria can be detected before considerable quantities of blue-green algae have even developed.
Potential Health Impacts on Humans and Animals
According to the Department of Health of the New York State, some blue-green algae can yield toxins while others don't.
Nonetheless, exposure to any blue-green algae blooms can result in health impacts in humans and animals when water with blooms is touched, swallowed or when airborne aerosols or droplets are breathed in.
Essentially, exposure to high levels of blue-green algae and their poisons or contaminants can result in symptoms like nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea, eye, throat, or skin irritation, as well as allergic reactions or difficulties in breathing.
Meanwhile, pet and livestock illness and deaths can occur if animals eat large amounts of water containing blooms, impurities, or benthic mats.
Experts' advice is that any individual who sees the indications in their pets or animals should seek veterinarian care.
Technique to Ensure Authenticity of Cyanobacterial Products
Commenting on the study published in Analytical Chemistry, Dr. Aneika Leney, the study's lead author, said this is such an exciting initial step towards the development of useful tools that can be used to keep hazardous blue-green algae blooms at bay while leaving non-poisonous species untargeted.
Future work for the development of this technique would create a large database of spectral fingerprints for all the different species of cyanobacteria is currently identified.
Therefore, when a match has been identified, the species can be detected fast. The approach can be used to check the cyanobacterial products' authenticity, like spirulina extracts, that are taken as food and health supplements.
Related information about the blue-green algae is shown on Reactions' YouTube video below:
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