U.P. LOS BANOS DEVELOPS RED TIDE DIAGNOSTIC KIT

Los Banos, Laguna, June 8, 2003 By Rudy A. Fernandez, (Star) — Scientists of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) have developed a diagnostic kit on red tide.

The immunoassay kit for red tide toxin causal organisms provides quality control laboratories, research and teaching/training institutions with an effective tool for detecting red tide toxins in shellfish, particularly mussel (tahong).

Red tide is the discoloration of seawater caused by highly dense population of microscopic phytoplanktons. Its causative organism in the Philippines is Pyrodinium bahamense var. compressum.

Consumption of red tide-infected shellfish causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), which results in paralysis of limbs and eventually death.

BIOTECH said the kit they have developed serves as an early warning to fisherfolk and consumers on red tide contamination of shellfish. It is environmentally safe, easy to use, rapid and inexpensive.

The kit can determine PSP toxin at a concentration of as low as five parts per billion (ppb).

The institute added that the kit could be of great use in monitoring red tide incidence in various parts of the country.

More importantly, it can diagnose patients suspected of having ingested red tide toxin-contaminated shellfish.

The diagnostic kit on red tide is one of 23 kits developed by BIOTECH scientists and now being used in the country.

BIOTECH director Teresita Espino said the other kits are on viruses attacking papaya, citrus, corn, peanut, cutflowers, banana, abaca, mango, potato and tobacco; as well as on aflatoxin and other toxins.

The kits have proven effective in detecting plant, food and feed pathogens (causative agents of a disease) and mycotoxins (toxic substances produced by fungi).

Espino said the BIOTECH-developed diagnostic kits could detect infections at the earliest time possible even in the absence of symptoms, thus, limiting the spread of diseases. It is also of good use in the production of virus-free planting materials that would benefit farmers.

"The cost of locally product kits is much cheaper than imported ones, thus, saving much-needed dollars,"
Espino said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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