A severe outbreak of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) occurred in Manzanillo and Guayacán, northwestern coast of Margarita Island, Venezuela, between August and October 1991. A bloom of dinoflagellates including Prorocentrum gracile, Gymnodinium catenatum and Alexandrium tamarense seemed to be responsible for this outbreak. Levels of PSP toxins in mussels (Perna perna) exceeded the international safety limit of saxitoxin, 80 µg STX/100 g meat. PSP toxin values varied between 2 548 and 115 µg STX/100 g meat in Manzanillo, and between 1 422 and 86 µg STX/100 g meat in Guayacán. At both locations, the highest levels were detected in August, when 24 patients exhibited typical symptoms of PSP toxicity after consuming cooked mussels (16 required hospitalization). A high pressure liquid chromatographic (HPLC) procedure was recently used on the 1991 samples. The major toxin detected in samples of both locations was decarbamoyl saxitoxin (dcSTX), but low concentrations of saxitoxin were also found in Manzanillo samples. Gonyautoxins GTX1, GTX2 and GTX3 were detected only at Guayacán, while in both locations, decarbamoylgonyatouxin (dcGTX2,3) toxins were detected. These findings represent the first time that causative toxins of PSP in Venezuela have been chemically identified, and confirm the presence of dcSTX and dcGTX in mussels from the Caribbean Sea. The presence of dcSTX and dcGTX in shellfish is indicative that Gymnodinium catenatum was a causative organism for outbreak of PSP.
Keywords: Dinoflagellate, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, saxitoxin, Prorocentrum, Gymnodinium catenatum, Alexandrium tamarense