Fate of Biotoxins in the Environment and Its Health Implications

  • Anju Agrawal
  • Krishna Gopal


Biotoxins are generally referred to as toxic substances that are produced naturally and can originate either in fauna or flora. They are of animal or plant origin and produce adverse effects in humans and other animals. They enter the body by ingestion through food or water or by direct exposure in air through aerosols or by bites and stings. The degree and magnitude of biological response depends on the nature of risk factors and relative susceptibility/resistance of the host. Many toxins are biomagnified through the food chain and ultimately humans may suffer. Toxins are produced by organisms, either for defence or offence, and are sometimes used to paralyse the prey. Several biotoxins have been used as medicines as they are the most reactive molecules and in very low concentrations can react with specific target sites. Due to their specificity, some of them have been used as pharmacological tools to study the physiology of the body. Toxins produced by marine organisms are most potent and often reach the human population through food chain. The biotoxins produced by microorganisms like bacteria and fungi can also be very potent and may lead to several health hazards including allergy and mortality. In human health they cause hypotension, bradycardia, negative inotrophic effect on the heart and vasoconstriction of the skin and skeletal muscles. A lectin has been isolated which is cytotoxic and is used as anticancer agent. They also decrease bronchial and salivary secretions in low dose. Some of the important toxins discussed are, namely, okadaic acid, domoic acid, ciguatoxin, scombrotoxin, kainic acid and ibotenic acid.


Okadaic Acid Kainic Acid Domoic Acid Kainate Receptor Histidine Decarboxylase 


  1. Becker A, Grecksch G, Bernstein HG, Höllt V, Bogerts B (1999) Social behaviour in rats lesioned with ibotenic acid in the hippocampus: quantitative and qualitative analysis. Psychopharmacology 144(4):333–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bossart GD (2011) Marine mammals as sentimental species for oceans and human health. Vet Pathol 48:679–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dawson RM (1998) The toxicity of microcystins. Toxicon 36:953–962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Elliot WB (1978) Chemistry and immunology of reptilian venoms. In: Grans C (ed) Biology of the reptilia, vol 8. Academic, London, p 163Google Scholar
  5. Gopalkrishnan P, Tan CK (eds) (1992) Recent advances in toxicology research. National University of Singapore, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  6. Habermehl CG (1981) Venomous animals and their toxin. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Isacson O, Brundin P, Kelly PA, Gage FH, Björklund A (1984) Functional neuronal replacement by grafted striatal neurones in the ibotenic acid-lesioned rat striatum. Nature 311(5985):458–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Lee CY (ed) (1979) Snake venoms. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Norton S (1996) Toxic effects of plants. In: Klaassen CD, Amdur MO, Doull J (eds) Casarrett and Doull’s toxicology, 5th edn. McGraw-Hill, New York, p 841Google Scholar
  10. Russell FE (1967) Comparative pharmacology of some animal toxins. Fed Proc 26:1206Google Scholar
  11. Russell FE (1980) Snake venom poisoning. Lippincott, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  12. Russell FE (1983) Snake venom poisoning. Scholium International, Great NeckGoogle Scholar
  13. Russell FE (1996) Toxic effects of animal toxins. In: Klaassen CD, Amdur MO, Doull J (eds) Casarett and Doull’s toxicology, 5th edn. Mc Graw-Hill, New York, p 801Google Scholar
  14. Stewart I, Schluter PJ, Shaw GR (2006) Cyanobacterial lipopolysaccharides and human health-a review. Environ Health Glob Access Sci Source 5:7Google Scholar
  15. Tu A (1977) Chemistry and molecular biology. Wiley, New York, p 1977Google Scholar
  16. Vale P, Antonia M, Sampayo M (1999) Esters of okadaic acid and dinophysistoxin-2 in Portuguese bivalves related to human poisoning. Toxicon 37:1109–1121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Van Dolah FM (2010) Marine algal toxins. Origins, health effects and their increased occurrence. Environ Health Perspect 108(suppl 1):133–141Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer India 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anju Agrawal
    • 1
  • Krishna Gopal
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyS N Sen B V P G College CSJM UniversityKanpurIndia
  2. 2.Aquatic Toxicology DivisionCSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology ResearchLucknowIndia

Personalised recommendations