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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


In connection with the CDC National Conference on Pfiesteria, a multidisciplinary panel evaluated Pfiesteria-related research. The panel set out what was known and what was not known about adverse effects of the organism on estuarine ecology, fish, and human, health; assessed the methods used in Pfiesteria research; and offered suggestions to address data gaps. The panel's expertise covered dinoflagellate ecology; fish pathology and toxicology; laboratory measurement of toxins, epidemiology, and neurology. The panel evaluated peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed literature available through June 2000 in a systematic conceptual framework that moved from the source of exposure, through exposure research and dose, to human health effects. Substantial uncertainties remain throughout the conceptual framework the panel used to guide its evaluation. Firm evidence demonstrates that Pfiesteria is 1oxic to fish, but the specific toxin has not been isolated or characterized. Laboratory and field evidence indicate that the organism has a complex life cycle. The consequences of human exposure to Pfiesteria toxin and the magnitude of the human health problem remain obscure. The patchwork of approaches used in clinical evaluation and surrogate measures of exposure to the toxin are major limitations of this work. To protect public health, the panel suggests that priority be given research that will provide better insight into the effects of Pfiesteria on human health. Key gaps include the identity and mechanism of action cf the toxin(s), the incomplete description of effects of exposure in invertebrates, fish, and humans, and the nature and extent of exposures that place people at risk.


'Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives

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Environmental Health Perspectives



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