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International Journal of Microbiology
Volume 2011, Article ID 152815, 15 pages
Review Article

Prominent Human Health Impacts from Several Marine Microbes: History, Ecology, and Public Health Implications

1Center for Oceans and Human Health, Pacific Research Center for Marine Biomedicine, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, MSB no. 205, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, 96822, USA
2Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Cswy, Miami, FL 33149, USA
3Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
4Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida and University of Miami Center for Oceans and Human Health, Key Biscayne, FL 33124-0630, USA
5Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California and University of Hawaii Center for Oceans and Human Health, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
6National Center for Environmental Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47770 Buford Highway NE MS F-46, Chamblee, GA 30341, USA

Received 15 June 2010; Revised 23 July 2010; Accepted 25 July 2010

Academic Editor: Max Teplitski

Copyright © 2011 P. K. Bienfang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper overviews several examples of important public health impacts by marine microbes and directs readers to the extensive literature germane to these maladies. These examples include three types of dinoflagellates (Gambierdiscus spp., Karenia brevis, and Alexandrium fundyense), BMAA-producing cyanobacteria, and infectious microbes. The dinoflagellates are responsible for ciguatera fish poisoning, neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, and paralytic shellfish poisoning, respectively, that have plagued coastal populations over time. Research interest on the potential for marine cyanobacteria to contribute BMAA into human food supplies has been derived by BMAA's discovery in cycad seeds and subsequent implication as the putative cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/parkinsonism dementia complex among the Chamorro people of Guam. Recent UPLC/MS analyses indicate that recent reports that BMAA is prolifically distributed among marine cyanobacteria at high concentrations may be due to analyte misidentification in the analytical protocols being applied for BMAA. Common infectious microbes (including enterovirus, norovirus, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Staphylococcus aureus, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia) cause gastrointestinal and skin-related illness. These microbes can be introduced from external human and animal sources, or they can be indigenous to the marine environment.