Harmful cyanobacteria and their cyanotoxins in Egyptian fresh waters – state of knowledge and research needs
Cyanobacterial blooms have increased in freshwater ecosystems worldwide in the last century, mostly resulting from eutrophication and climate change. These blooms represent serious threats to environmental and human health because of the production of harmful metabolites, called cyanotoxins. Like many countries, Egypt has been plagued with cyanobacterial blooms in most water sources, including the Nile River, irrigation canals, lakes and fishponds. However, the data about cyanotoxins produced in these blooms are limited. Only two types of cyanotoxins, microcystins and cylindrospermopsin, have been identified and characterised, mainly from Microcystis and Cylindrospermopsis blooms. The data revealed the presence of microcystins in raw and treated drinking waters at concentrations (0.05–3.8 μg l−1), exceeding the WHO limit (1 μg l−1) in some drinking water treatment plants. In addition, Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus caught from ponds containing heavy cyanobacterial blooms have accumulated considerable amounts of cyanotoxins in their edible tissues. The data presented here could be the catalyst for the establishment of a monitoring and management programme for harmful cyanobacteria and their cyanotoxins in Egyptian fresh waters. This review also elucidates the important research gaps and possible avenues for future research on cyanobacterial blooms and cyanotoxins in Egypt.
Keywords: eutrophication, harmful blooms, hepatotoxins, neurotoxins, water quality