The paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins (PSTs) were, as their name suggests, discovered as a result of human poisoning after consumption of contaminated shellfish. More recently, however, the same toxins have been found to be produced by freshwater cyanobacteria. These organisms have worldwide distribution and are common in our sources of drinking water, thus presenting another route of potential human exposure. However, the regulatory limits for PSTs in drinking water are considerably lower than in shellfish. This has increased the need to find alternatives to the mouse bioassay, which, apart from being ethically questionable, does not have a limit of detection capable of detecting the PSTs in water at the regulated concentrations. Additionally, the number of naturally occurring PSTs has grown substantially since saxitoxin was first characterised, markedly increasing the analytical challenge of this group of compounds. This paper summarises the development of chromatographic, toxicity, and molecular sensor binding methodologies for detection of the PSTs in shellfish, cyanobacteria, and water contaminated by these toxins. It then summarises the advantages and disadvantages of their use for particular applications. Finally it recommends some future requirements that will contribute to their improvement for these applications.
- Drinking water