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Acta Médica Costarricense

On-line version ISSN 0001-6002Print version ISSN 0001-6012


FREER, Enrique  and  VARGAS-MONTERO, Maribel. Floraciones algales nocivas en la costa pacífica de Costa Rica: toxicología y sus efectos en el ecosistema y salud pública. Acta méd. costarric [online]. 2003, vol.45, n.4, pp.158-164. ISSN 0001-6002.

Justification and Objectives: The first cases of intoxication due to Harmful Algae Blooms (HAB) in Costa Rica were reported in 1990. However, towards the end of 1999 a drastic increase of poisoned people was observed, especially along our pacific coast. There is lack of information regarding the problems of HAB. Due to the impact of HAB on public health, local tourism and the ecosystem, it is necessary to describe toxic species and their toxins in order to apply adequate control and preventive measures. Methods: Water samples were taken in various locations along the costarican pacific coast with the aim of detecting potentially toxic and harmful species of microalgae. Species identification was carried out morphologically by means of light and scanning electron microscopy. These findings were compared with current literature and the potential toxin of these microalgae was proposed as well as the methods of toxico-logical analysis and the clinical findings of those affected. Results: Recently, an increase in the number of HAB producing microalgae species has been observed in Costa Rica. This study reports these findings together with ones from those of other authors related to HAB producing species in Costa Rica. In few algal bloom samples, large intracellular bacillary bacteria were found, mainly within the dinoflagellate Prorocentrum micans. This relation may be associated with the toxicity of the algae. Discussion: It is believed that the increase in coastal zone pollution and the transportation of species by means of ships ballast water may be the cause of the appearance of these microalgaes. The presence of 26 dinoflagellates, 8 diatoms and 1 cyanobacteria, all potentially harmful in HAB events, was currently demonstrated along the pacific coast of Costa Rica. These microalgae are capable of producing toxins which may cause: paralysis, amnesia, diarrheia, and neurotoxicity poisonings, ciguatera and Tamandré fever. It is important that health personnel be knowledgeable regarding HAB events and to implement an effective monitoring and program control in Costa Rica in order to protect the population.

Keywords : mareas rojas; floraciones algales nocivas; dinoflagelados; toxicología.

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