Study: Exposure to toxic algae may pose greater danger to people with pre-existing conditions

TOLEDO (WTVG) - Toxic algae blooms can be harmful to the public, but new research finds that they can be especially harmful to those with certain pre-existing conditions.

In a new study published in the journal Toxins and conducted by researchers at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, there is clear evidence that exposure to microcystin (a type of toxin produced by blue-green algae) can worsen the severity of colitis in patients with a pre-existing diagnosis. They also found that the toxin can amplify the disease at levels below what would harm a healthy liver.

“The take-home message from our research is there are certain groups of people who need to pay extra attention and may be more susceptible to microcystin toxins. We may need to explore special preventative guidelines for those people in terms of how much microcystin they are exposed to through drinking water or other means,” said Dr. David Kennedy, an assistant professor of medicine at UToledo and one of the study’s lead authors.

Potentially dangerous concentrations of microcystin have been found this year in ponds in New York City’s Central Park, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, reservoirs in California, and a portion of Lake Erie’s coastline near Toledo.

While no human deaths have been linked to microcystin in the United States, deaths have been reported elsewhere — most notably among a group of kidney dialysis patients in Brazil. There also have been reports this year of pet dogs dying after exposure to blue-green algae in Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia.