Toxicology and detection methods of the alkaloid neurotoxin produced by cyanobacteria, anatoxin-a

Environ Int. 2007 Nov;33(8):1070-89. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2007.06.003. Epub 2007 Jul 30.


Freshwater resources are under stress due to naturally occurring conditions and human impacts. One of the consequences is the proliferation of cyanobacteria, microphytoplankton organisms that are capable to produce toxins called cyanotoxins. Anatoxin-a is one of the main cyanotoxins. It is a very potent neurotoxin that was already responsible for some animal fatalities. In this review we endeavor to divulgate much of the internationally published information about toxicology, occurrence and detection methods of anatoxin-a. Cyanobacteria generalities, anatoxin-a occurrence and production as well as anatoxin-a toxicology and its methods of detection are the aspects focused in this review. Remediation of anatoxin-a occurrence will be addressed with a public health perspective. Final remarks call the attention for some important gaps in the knowledge about this neurotoxin and its implication to public health. Alterations of aquatic ecosystems caused by anatoxin-a is also addressed. Although anatoxin-a is not the more frequent cyanotoxin worldwide, it has to be regarded as a health risk that can be fatal to terrestrial and aquatic organisms because of its high toxicity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyanobacteria / metabolism
  • Cyanobacteria Toxins
  • Humans
  • Marine Toxins / analysis
  • Marine Toxins / metabolism
  • Marine Toxins / toxicity*
  • Neurotoxins / analysis
  • Neurotoxins / metabolism
  • Neurotoxins / toxicity*
  • Tropanes / analysis
  • Tropanes / metabolism
  • Tropanes / toxicity*
  • Water Pollutants / analysis
  • Water Pollutants / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants / toxicity*


  • Cyanobacteria Toxins
  • Marine Toxins
  • Neurotoxins
  • Tropanes
  • Water Pollutants
  • anatoxin a