Publications: Peer-reviewed journal articles (by staff)

Solid phase adsorption toxin tracking (SPATT): A new monitoring tool that simulates the biotoxin contamination of filter feeding bivalves

1 January, 2004

MacKenzie L, Beuzenberg V, Holland P, McNabb P, Selwood A 2004. Solid phase adsorption toxin tracking (SPATT): A new monitoring tool that simulates the biotoxin contamination of filter feeding bivalves. Toxicon 44: 901-918.


A simple and sensitive in situ method for monitoring the occurrence of toxic algal blooms and shellfish contamination events has been developed. The technique involves the passive adsorption of biotoxins onto porous synthetic resin filled sachets (SPATT bags) and their subsequent extraction and analysis. The success of the method is founded on the observation that during algal blooms significant amounts of toxin, including the low polarity lipophilic compounds such as the pectenotoxins and the okadaic acid complex toxins, are dissolved in the seawater. The results of field trials during Dinophysis acuminata and Protoceratium reticulatum blooms are presented. These data prove the concept and demonstrate that the technique provides a means of forecasting shellfish contamination events and predicting the net accumulation of polyether toxins by mussels. As an early warning method it has many advantages over current monitoring techniques such as shellfish-flesh testing and phytoplankton monitoring. In contrast to the circumstantial evidence provided by genetic probe technologies and conventional phytoplankton monitoring methods, it directly targets the toxic compounds of interest. The extracts that are obtained for analysis lack many of the extraneous lipophilic materials in crude shellfish extracts so that many of the matrix problems associated with chemical and biological analysis of these extracts are eliminated. Analyses can confidently target parent compounds only, because analytical and toxicological uncertainties associated with the multiplicity of toxin analogues produced by in vivo biotransformation in shellfish tissues are reduced. Time integrated sampling provides a good simulation of biotoxin accumulation in filter feeders and the high sensitivity provides lengthy early warning and conservative estimates of contamination potential. The technique may reduce monitoring costs and provide improved spatial and temporal sampling opportunities. When coupled with appropriate analytical techniques (e.g. LC-MS/MS multi-toxin screens, ELISA assays, receptor binding assays), the technique has the potential to offer a universal early warning method for marine and freshwater micro-algae toxins.

(C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.