The toxins of Lyngbya majuscula and their human and ecological health effects

Environ Int. 2001 Nov;27(5):381-92. doi: 10.1016/s0160-4120(01)00098-8.


Lyngbya majuscula is a benthic filamentous marine cyanobacterium, which in recent years appears to have been increasing in frequency and size of blooms in Moreton Bay, Queensland. It has a worldwide distribution throughout the tropics and subtropics in water to 30m. It has been found to contain a variety of chemicals that exert a range of biological effects, including skin, eye and respiratory irritation. The toxins lyngbyatoxin A and debromoaplysiatoxin appear to give the most widely witnessed biological effects in relation to humans, and experiments involving these two toxins show the formation of acute dermal lesions. Studies into the epidemiology of the dermatitic, respiratory and eye effects of the toxins of this organism are reviewed and show that Lyngbya induced dermatitis has occurred in a number of locations. The effects of aerosolised Lyngbya in relation to health outcomes were also reported. Differential effects of bathing behaviour after Lyngbya exposure were examined in relation to the severity of health outcomes. The potential for Lyngbya to exhibit differential toxicologies due to the presence of varying proportions of a range of toxins is also examined. This paper reviews the present state of knowledge on the effects of Lyngbya majuscula on human health, ecosystems and human populations during a toxic cyanobacterial bloom. The potential exists for toxins from Lyngbya majuscula affecting ecological health and in particular marine reptiles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Dermatitis / etiology*
  • Ecosystem
  • Eutrophication*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Lyngbya Toxins / adverse effects*
  • Public Health*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced*


  • Aerosols
  • Lyngbya Toxins