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UBC Okanagan Researchers Discover Neurotoxin in Lake Winnipeg

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A new study from UBC’s Okanagan campus has found that BMAA—a toxin linked to several neurodegenerative diseases—is present in high concentrations during cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Winnipeg.

A new study from UBC’s Okanagan campus has found that BMAA—a toxin linked to several neurodegenerative diseases—is present in high concentrations during cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Winnipeg.

“Cyanobacteria blooms have become increasingly common in Lake Winnipeg since the 1990s,” says Susan Murch, associate professor of chemistry at UBC Okanagan and study lead author. “These bacteria have also been known to produce BMAA under the right conditions and we wanted to establish whether this could be happening in one of Canada’s largest and most important freshwater lakes.”

Murch says BMAA has been associated with everything from Alzheimer’s to ALS and can have serious public health implications if it permeates food and water supplies.

“It’s very difficult to detect BMAA directly in water samples using current methods,” says Stephanie Bishop, a graduate student in chemistry at UBC Okanagan and study co-author. “We decided to look for its presence in the cyanobacteria itself using samples collected from across the lake with the help of our partners from the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium.”

Read more at University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus

Image: Stephanie Bishop, a graduate student in chemistry at UBC Okanagan, holds a sample from Lake Winnipeg. (Credit: UBC Okanagan)