Current projects within the CRP: HABs in Benthic Systems


Project title: Study of the biological and toxinologic aspects of benthic dinoflagellates asociated with risks to the human health.

Acronym: EBITOX

Start: January 2009

End: December 2011 

Funding program: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Gobierno de España 

Budget: 96.800 eur

Coordinator: José M. Franco.


- Instituto de Investigaciónes Mariñas de Vigo, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC): J.M. Franco, P. Riobó

- Centro Oceanográfico de Vigo, Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO): I. Bravo, R.I. Figueroa, S. Fraga, F. Rodríguez

- Dependencia del Area de Sanidad en Vigo: E. Cacho

- Unidad de Proteómica, Servicio de Determinación Estructural, Proteómica y Genómica (CACTI), Universidad de Vigo: B. Paz

- Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC, Barcelona: M. Vila, M.M. Sala


Blooms of Ostreopsis in the Mediterranean Sea have been related to respiratory problems and/or allergic reactions in some coastal areas in summer and they pose also a potential risk of food poisoning. Ciguatera was registered in the Canary Islands (NE Atlantic Ocean) for the first time in 2004, the same year that Gambierdiscus was detected and isolated from those waters. As a consequence, a research project started in 2009 to study morphological, genetic, toxicological and environmental aspects of these genera. The main objectives were:

1) To characterize morphologically and genetically different strains of Ostreopsis and Gambierdiscus from the Mediterranean Sea and from Canary Islands.

2) To describe temporal and spatial distributions of both genera and dynamics of associated epiphytic communities.

3) To progress in the identification of environmental conditions which determine the proliferation of target species.

4) To describe life cycles of the two genera and to identify how they overwinter.

5) To determine toxin profiles of strains cultured in the laboratory and to compare them with field samples.

6) To determine if toxins produced by Ostreopsis are present in aerosols in the sea shore.

7) To characterize the toxic potency of different toxins produced by selected cultured strains, to use them in toxicological studies.

8) To detect the potential presence of toxins in mollusks and fish.

9) To describe the benthic dinoflagellates community associated to toxic species in the target areas. This project is coordinated with others dealing with chemistry and biosynthesis of bioactive polyiketides from benthic dinoflagellates, toxicology and engineering for producing bioactive substances.

This project is part of a coordinated project entitled: “Toxic dinoflagellates along the Spanish coasts: chemical and biological studies and mode of action. Production of metabolites of interest and evaluation of its biotechnological potential.”  PI: M. Norte Martín

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