The Potential Effects of Red Tide on Our Brains. How Could Red Tide Affect Our Nervous System?

ABC7 Staff 
SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – Red Tide research is continuing in Sarasota, and at Roskamp Institute, they say it’s how the toxins might affect your nervous system that is important. In 2018, many experienced coughing, sneezing, and itchy throat from the toxins in the Red Tide algae. Now, new research is exploring the possible effects on our brains.

Red Tide comes from naturally occurring algae in the Gulf of Mexico. When it blooms, it creates large amounts of brevetoxins. That toxin kills fish and creates breathing problems in people.

At Roskamp Institute, Executive Director Michael Mullan said they began to get complaints of people with headaches and memory issues: “The sort of complaints we were seeing are things like migrainous headaches, but other complaints, such as tingling, numbness, changes in sensation… Some people felt that their memory problems were associated with the Red Tide blooms. Now we don’t know if that’s true or not, and that’s part of the evaluation… that’s part of the study.” 

One year into the study of 200 volunteers, with at least another year to go, researchers monitor the antibodies to brevetoxin in volunteers’ blood. When exposed to the same level of toxin some people produce more antibodies than others. Does that mean they have more symptoms?  “That’s the question. We don’t know the answer to that yet. But, that’s one of the really interesting questions that this study will unravel.”

There are still more questions than there are answers. But, as research continues, the goal is to find treatments to prevent damaging effects on our brains.

Article with video:

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From Roskamp Institute:

Hopefully we will find NO links between brevetoxin exposure and neurological effects, but there’s certainly a lot of interest in the question. So far, we have learned the toxin can definitely get into the human body from the air because we see the circulating antibodies against it months after exposure. We are working on understanding whether a big immune effect is good news or not in relation to neurological symptoms.

Mote researchers showed that the immune systems can become much less effective after repeated exposure in manatees that become incapacitated or die during red tides. There’s also a recent suggestion that the loss of the Royal Terns in this region (two years after the last exposure) is due to impairment of their immune systems and subsequent inability to fight bacterial infections.

We are now setting up to look for immune cell responses after re-challenge with the toxin in the blood from volunteers. I expect to see the same pattern – some people will have reactive immune responses and others won’t. Of course, we are correlating that with the neurological signs and symptoms they report.

– Dr. Michael Mullan, Roskamp Institute Executive Director

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