Red Tide Toxin for Cystic Fibrosis

November 19, 2004 -- We are carrying this story today because of a note we received from a water-loving friend out in California saying: "This is interesting, we have red tides out here as well, and you can't scuba dive, surf, or swim in the water because of it."

Comment: The Florida red tide Gymnodinium breve, or G. breve has been reclassified. Its new name is Karenia brevis, or K. brevis, in honor of Dr. Karen Steidinger, a red tide scientist from the Florida Marine Research Institute in the Tampa-St. Pete area. This locale is not coincidental because Florida red tide blooms typically begin in the Gulf of Mexico 40-80 miles offshore and move slowly with the prevailing ocean currents toward the Tampa Bay area.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com


Research with Red Tide Toxin Yields Potential Therapies for Cystic Fibrosis

Researchers working with Florida red tide discovered two new compounds that may treat mucus build-up associated with cystic fibrosis and similar lung diseases. Preliminary studies show these compounds improve the flow of mucus through the respiratory tract, allowing airways to clear more quickly and efficiently.

Florida red tide consists of microscopic plant-like cells that produce a potent chemical toxin that causes fish kills, contaminates shellfish, and creates severe respiratory irritation in people. As the concentration of red tide increases, waves and wind disperse toxin particles into the air, causing irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, lips and tongue. After identifying the most potent of the red tide toxins, researchers asked a second question: Can the respiratory problems caused by the toxin be prevented? Their research led to the discovery of two "anti-toxins" - a man-made compound known as b-Naphthoyl-brevetoxin, and brevenal, a natural compound produced by the organism itself. Experiments conducted in sheep revealed that both compounds were able to block the effects of the red tide toxin on the respiratory system.

While conducting experiments on the red tide anti-toxins, researchers made an even more important discovery - the anti-toxins behaved much like drugs used to treat cystic fibrosis. "We found these compounds are able to speed up the clearance of mucus from the lungs," said Daniel Baden, Ph.D., director of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Center for Marine Science and director of the project.