Detection of Tetrodotoxin Shellfish Poisoning (TSP) Toxins and Causative Factors in Bivalve Molluscs from the UK

Mar Drugs. 2017 Aug 30;15(9):277. doi: 10.3390/md15090277.


Tetrodotoxins (TTXs) are traditionally associated with the occurrence of tropical Pufferfish Poisoning. In recent years, however, TTXs have been identified in European bivalve mollusc shellfish, resulting in the need to assess prevalence and risk to shellfish consumers. Following the previous identification of TTXs in shellfish from southern England, this study was designed to assess the wider prevalence of TTXs in shellfish from around the coast of the UK. Samples were collected between 2014 and 2016 and subjected to analysis using HILIC-MS/MS. Results showed the continued presence of toxins in shellfish harvested along the coast of southern England, with the maximum concentration of total TTXs reaching 253 µg/kg. TTX accumulation was detected in Pacific oysters (Crassostreagigas), native oysters (Ostreaedulis) common mussels (Mytilusedulis) and hard clams (Mercenariamercenaria), but not found in cockles (Cerastodermaedule), razors (Ensis species) or scallops (Pectenmaximus). Whilst the highest concentrations were quantified in samples harvested during the warmer summer months, TTXs were still evident during the winter. An assessment of the potential causative factors did not reveal any links with the phytoplankton species Prorocentrumcordatum, instead highlighting a greater level of risk in areas of shallow, estuarine waters with temperatures above 15 °C.

Keywords: HILIC-MS/MS; Tetrodotoxin Shellfish Poisoning (TSP); Tetrodotoxins; UK shellfish; bivalve molluscs.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bivalvia / chemistry*
  • Shellfish Poisoning*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Tetrodotoxin / analysis*
  • United Kingdom


  • Tetrodotoxin