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Pass the shellfish, please.

'Tis the season for turkey and over-stuffing, but a group of researchers at the University of Rhodel Island in Kingston is more interested in shellfish consumption. According to chemistry professor Yuzuru Shimizu, scientists there are studying the types of food poisoning associated with shellfish.

Most feared is the neurological type, the sometimes fatal paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). This is commonly attributed to eating shellfish that fed during "red tide," when seawater is loaded with reddish, toxin-producing plankton called dinoflagellates. The Rhode Island team says it has successfully determined the unusual chemical structure of the PSP toxin, one that implies a "missing link" in the disease's epidemiology, according to Shimizu. "These compounds are very pculiar ... and are produced in [plankton species] that are not related," he says, speculating that symbiotic microorganisms or genetic factors in the plankton might be the source of toxin production.

The researchers also have evidence that many U.S. cases of severe stomach problems from eating shellfish are caused by a newly described toxin called diarrheic shellfish poison (DSP), rather than by bacteria and viruses as previously thought. The problem appears to be worldwide, and Shimizu's group is trying to identify which plankton species produce DSP. But a report from Shimizu in the November MARITIMES says research efforts are hampered by difficulties in detecting the toxin and culturing plankton in the laboratory.
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Title Annotation:research on food poisoning associated with shellfish
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 7, 1985
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