An international team of researchers headed by a Florida Gulf Coast University professor is trying to understand the most common marine toxin in the world.

The five-year study funded by NOAA’s Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms Program is investigating the conditions that lead to outbreaks of ciguatoxin.

Dr. Mike Parsons with FGCU's CiguaHAB research project said on WGCU's Gulf Coast Live the toxin is produced by single celled algae. They tend to grow on seaweeds in tropical environments like coral reefs. It gets into the food chain when fish eat the algae, and bigger fish eat those fish, and so on.

Parsons said it doesn’t take much to make a person sick with ciguatera fish poisoning, with the toxin affecting humans in doses measured in parts per billion. Early symptoms are gastrointestinal and neurological. They can last hours to months. And they can flare up weeks or even years later. Parsons said ciguatera poisoning can even be fatal.

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