FAU seeks participants’ help understanding impacts of harmful algal blooms on humans
During harmful algal blooms, cyanobacteria species release a variety of toxic compounds into local waterways, including microcystin, a potent toxin. Human exposure to the substance through ingestion, direct skin contact, or inhalation can cause a variety of symptoms, including gastroenteritis, nausea, allergic reactions, rashes, and in severe cases, liver damage. Despite the presence of red tide and blue-green algae in Florida waters, our understanding of the long-term health effects of exposure to these blooms remains limited.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and Harbor Oceanographic Institute are currently seeking participants in a study to assess the potential effects of exposure to harmful algal blooms. With another grant from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), they will continue to conduct the first assessment of short-term and potential long-term health impacts for Florida residents. The Long-Term Effects of Exposure to Harmful Algal Blooms (LEE-HAB) study uses a collaborative, multi-site approach that includes researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University.
The research team currently has 150 active participants, and they will recruit 30 additional participants this year. They will be recruiting and collecting non-bloom data in the Cape Coral area beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Public Works Department located at 815 Nicholas Parkway East. Appointments are available and you are welcome to visit.
This latest study expands on previous studies conducted in 2016, 2018, and FDOH studies in 2019 to 2020 and 2021 to 2022.
“Despite the intensity and intensity of cyanobacterial blooms in South Florida,” said Rebecca S. Koszalinski, Ph.D., principal investigator and associate professor at Christine E. Lynn College. are large, but data on health outcomes related to human exposure are sparse.” Nursing. “Understanding the short- and long-term health effects and outcomes is critical to protecting the health of Floridians. By developing tools to measure concentrations of harmful algal bloom toxins in the environment and in multiple human tissues, we will better understand Florida and elsewhere health-related outcomes and healthcare needs.”
The study is also the first to assess the potential impact of exposure to COVID-19. Researchers are exploring whether there is a relationship between a history of COVID-19 infection and susceptibility to the effects of harmful algal bloom exposure.
The latest research involves a survey to determine potential routes, duration and types of exposure to flowers through recreational and occupational activities. Researchers will also evaluate potential effects on individuals with pre-existing conditions such as asthma and chronic gastrointestinal disease. The study will also include blood tests including liver enzymes and kidney markers.
Concentrations of algal toxins, including microcystin and brevetoxin, will be measured in blood, urine and nasal mucosa. Toxin levels will also be used to understand dose-response relationships with self-reported respiratory, cutaneous and gastrointestinal symptoms. Urine and blood analyzes will be conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is developing methods to detect emerging algal toxins in human tissue.
The study included environmental sampling of water and air to measure potential sources of exposure.
Researchers worked with FAU Research’s Clinical Research Unit to develop a biorepository and participant registry to store data and samples. The goal is to establish an ongoing infrastructure to support the team’s long-term research into the health effects of exposure to current and emerging harmful algal bloom toxins and to provide a resource for researchers across the state.
Dr. Malcolm McFarland is a researcher in FAU’s Ports Division and co-principal investigator of the study. The research team also included Dr. Michael Parsons, a co-investigator and professor of marine sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University.
For more information or to participate in the study, call or text 561-297-4631, or email Rebecca Koszalinski at NurHAB@health.fau.edu. Community participants will receive up to $25 in gift cards each year as an incentive for participating in data collection activities.