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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of Washington

Developmental Neurotoxicity of Domoic Acid in a Nonhuman Primate Model

Thomas Burbacher, Ph.D.

NIEHS Grant: R01ES023043 

Domoic acid (DA) is a naturally occurring marine toxin that can contaminate shellfish and finfish living in marine waters, and consumption of this toxin can lead to Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. Produced by toxic algae, elevated levels of DA are becoming more frequent and human exposure has become a significant public health concern for populations who consume high levels of shellfish. Researchers at the University of Washington are using a nonhuman primate model to study maternal and infant effects associated with chronic, low-level oral exposure to DA during pregnancy. They are studying toxicity in the mother and developing fetus, assessing the neurobehavior of infants who were exposed in the womb, and using brain imaging to evaluate DA-induced changes in the developing brain. Results will fill significant data gaps in our knowledge of this marine compound and the dangers that low-level exposure may pose to the mother and developing fetus.

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