CiguaPIRE – Linking the chemical and biological diversity of epiphytic dinoflagellates in tropical oceans: Advancing global understanding on the origin of ciguatera

Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is a disease and global public health issue associated with a range of neurological, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms in humans resulting from the consumption of fish contaminated with ciguatoxins (CTXs). It is the most frequent non-bacterial food and seafood-related poisoning. The disease has originally been described as a tropical phenomenon since CTXs are produced by benthic single-celled dinoflagellates of the genus Gambierdiscus, which reside as epiphytes on macroalgae or damaged corals. Thus, in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world alone the number of people that suffer from CFP has been estimated to be 50,000–500,000, although the true number is difficult to ascertain due tounder-reporting. The area in which Gambierdiscus spp. have been identified and CFP outbreaks reported seems to be expanding. Gambierdiscus spp. have already been found in the Southeastern Mediterranean, and several cases of CFP have occurred on the Canary Islands and in Israel. Additionally, through the globalisation of trade the distribution and consumption of fish sourced from areas with endemic ciguatera is increasing, and outbreaks of CFP have been reported in temperate regions such as Germany, Great Britain and New York, from consumption of imported fresh fish.

Structure of pacific ciguatoxin-1B (P-CTX-1B)

The primary objective of the Norwegian part of the PIRE project is to contributeto the understanding of the complex toxin chemistry behind ciguatera fishpoisoning thereby enabling future management strategies.

The secondary objectives of the Norwegian part of the project are:

  • Contribute to the characterization of the meta-metabolome of Gambierdiscus species
  • Contribution to the structural elucidation of key algal and fish metabolites of CTX
  • Determination of CTXs kinetics and biotransformation products in fish
  • Develop antibodies for the detection of CTXs in fish

CiguaPIRE is a five year project (2018-2022) supported by National Science Foundation (NSF #1743802) and Norwegian Research Council (NFR MarinForsk #279247).

CiguaPIRE-team at project meeting in France 2018

The international part of the project is led by Alison Robertson from the University of South Alabama, and the project are involving partners from the Florida Gulf Coast University, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the University of the Virgin Islands, the University of Texas-Austin in USA, the Center for Environmental Studies of Cienfuegos (CEAC) in Cuba, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute and the University of Oslo in Norway, the City University of Hong Kong in China, the Heriot-Watt University in United Kingdom, the Center for Marine Ecosystems Research in Australia and the National Research Council in Canada.