Testing for Algae and Algal Toxins with Symbio Laboratories

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You’ve no doubt heard about the threat that heavy algae growth can pose for Australia’s waterways. But what many may not realise is that it’s not always simply the species of algae that can cause such damage, but the algal toxins secreted that threaten the health of Australia’s wildlife and leisure seekers.

Certain species of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can produce toxins that are extremely harmful to humans and animals.

Globally, blue-green algae blooms have been implicated in fish kills and human and livestock deaths, rendering waters unsafe for all types of uses including, but not limited to, drinking, agriculture, irrigation and recreational enterprises.

Symbio Laboratories_Algal Toxins_Blue-Green Algae_Anabaenopsis sp.
A Blue-green algae known as Anabaenopsis sp.
Symbio Laboratories_Algal Toxins_Blue-Green Algae_Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii
A coiled blue-green algae known as Cylindrospermosis raciborskii. It is capable of producing cylindrospermopsin toxins. The small cells in groups of four within the coils are Merismopedia sp.
Symbio Laboratories_Algal Toxins_Blue-Green Algae_Dolichospermum smithii
A blue-green algae known as Dolichosperum smithii

Symbio Laboratories analyses algal toxins in water and can provide guidance on the most suitable test to conduct when the toxin producing species is identified via our test Algae ID and enumeration test series.

For reporting of total algae, blue-green algae or toxic species only algae, Symbio Laboratories customers can use the following test series:

Total AlgaeTest series M60.1
Blue-green AlgaeTest series M60.2
Toxic Species onlyTest series M60.3

The table below is a summary of some of the currently known freshwater toxigenic species based on research conducted in Australia, and the test required for toxin detection with Symbio Laboratories.

SpeciesToxins producedSymbio Test requiredHabitat
Cylindrospermopsis raciborskiiCylindrospermopsinENV1391Plankton, Freshwater.
Raphidiopsis mediterraneaCylindrospermopsinENV139Plankton, Freshwater.
Chrysosporum ovalisporum (formerly Aphanizomenon ovalisporum)CylindrospermopsinENV139Plankton, Freshwater.
Microseira wollei (formerly Lyngbya wollei)CylindrospermopsinENV139Benthic, Freshwater.
Dolichospermum circinale (formerly Anabaena circinalis)SaxitoxinsENV1472Plankton, Freshwater.
Microcystis aeruginosaMicrocystinsENV139Plankton, Freshwater.
Nodularia spumigenaNodularinENV139Plankton, Freshwater/Brackish/Marine.

1ENV139 suite includes Anatoxin-a, Cylindrospermopsin, Deoxycylindrospermopsin, Microcystin-RR, Microcystin-YR, Microcystin-LR and Nodularin.

2ENV147 suite for Saxitoxins includes C1&C2 GTX-1&4, dcGTX-2&3, GTX-2&3, Saxitoxin and Neosaxitoxin.

What to do if you suspect an Algal Bloom

  • Collect a sample using a Symbio prepared opaque PET bottle and add Lugols preservative after sampling. For reporting of algal toxins, a second sample must be collected and submitted in a 40mL unpreserved amber glass vial. Contact our Customer Service team on 1300 703 166 for information on sample collection bottles, and see our Bottle Guide for our complete range.
  • For Algae Detection: Enter test Algae ID and Enumeration code required i.e. M60.1, into an Analysis Request Form (ARF).
  • For Algal Toxin reporting, using the table above, enter the test(s) you require into an ARF i.e. for Cylindrospermopsin reporting enter ENV139.

What to do if you suspect algal toxins and require rapid results

  • Collect a sample in 40mL unpreserved amber glass vial. Contact our Customer Service team on 1300 703 166 for information on sample collection bottles, and see our Bottle Guide for our complete range.
  • Using the table above, determine which toxin test you require and enter into ARF i.e. for Cylindrospermopsin reporting enter ENV139.

If you have not submitted samples with Symbio Laboratories in the past, or submit infrequently, select both toxin tests (ENV139 AND ENV147).
Clients with historical data may be able to determine which toxic species tend to be in their samples and can choose either one or both.

As an Australian Owned and Operated company, Symbio Laboratories proudly provides testing of phytoplankton (algae) and supports major organisations in keeping these waterways safe.

With a team of phycologists and chemists, Symbio Laboratories assists Southeast Queensland’s water authority Seqwater in the important process of monitoring Queensland’s recreational and drinking water supply, by providing first-rate testing and analysis.

In addition to providing our clients with appropriate materials to correctly submit their algae samples, our team conducts the labour intensive process of identifying and counting phytoplankton, including potentially toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), which is capable of producing toxins harmful to humans, livestock, pets, and agriculture.

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