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Greater Caribbean Center for Ciguatera Research

Investigators
Michael Parsons; Robert Sobol; Jennifer Pierce; Alison Robertson; Donald Anderson
Institutions
Florida Gulf Coast University
Start date
2018
End date
2023
Objective

The Greater Caribbean Center for Ciguatera Research (GCCCR) is a five-year, multi-institutional effort aimed at understanding Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) and environmental factors influencing its occurrence and expansion. Ciguatera fish poisoning is the most common form of phycotoxin-borne seafood illness across the globe, affecting tens of thousands of people annually. CFP is caused by the consumption of seafood (primarily reef fish) contaminated with ciguatoxins (CTX). When people subsequently consume the contaminated fish, they are exposed to the toxins, thereby experiencing CFP. Historically, CFP outbreaks have been linked with warm water temperatures and coral reef impacts, both of which are expected to increase in coming years and in geographic distribution. For example, although CFP is endemic to the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, and South Florida, CFP appears to be expanding northwards into the Gulf of Mexico, highlighted by the recent identification of toxic fish in the Flower Garden Marine Sanctuary off of the Texas/Louisiana coast. The GCCCR brings together a team of researchers from across the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region to study CFP. The Center will include an extensive public engagement component. The Center is jointly supported by NSF and by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Gambiertoxins, precursors of ciguatoxins produced by the (sub)tropical benthic dinoflagellate genus Gambierdiscus, enter reef food webs when herbivores and detritivores consume Gambierdiscus directly or indirectly by grazing on macroalgae. These precursor molecules are transferred to higher trophic levels by bioaccumulation, bioconversion and biomagnification until they reach predatory finfish species that are targeted in many commercial and recreational fisheries. The GCCCR will support three interrelated research projects to 1) examine the role climate change may play in the geographic and temporal expansion of CFP into more temperate latitudes; 2) obtain a better understanding of the toxic metabolites produced by certain Gambierdiscus strains, and the subsequent transfer and biotransformation of these compounds into coastal/reef food webs; and 3) study the genotoxicity and impacts on cellular metabolism caused by these toxins upon exposure.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project source
View this project
Project number
1841811
Categories
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Natural Toxins