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Did stranded dolphins suffer from Alzheimer's?
Over a dozen dolphins, which are stranded on the beaches of Florida and Massachusetts, were closely examined and a widespread environmental poison and so-called amyloid plaques were found in the animals. These are considered to be one of the typical signs of Alzheimer's.
A recent study of stranded dolphins showed that the animals carried amyloid plaques, which are considered an indicator of Alzheimer's. The researchers also found the BMAA environmental toxin in their bodies. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "PLOS ONE".
What is BMAA?
BMAA is a neurotoxin, which is produced by algae in water. This is how the toxin easily gets into the ocean food chain. It has long been suspected that permanent nutritional exposure can be the cause of neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The presence of BMAA and amyloid plaques in the 13 stranded dolphins supports this hypothesis.
Can dolphins get Alzheimer's?
Dolphins indicate very well the toxic exposures in the marine environment. For example, they could be in front of toxic loads from cyanobacteria flowers in coastal waters early on, which also affect human health. They offer a good animal model for how BMAA can trigger Alzheimer's, the researchers explain. In 2017, it was discovered that dolphins are the only known wildlife that shows signs of this common human disease.
Consequences of BMAA exposure in humans and animals
Dolphins that live in Florida's coastal waters are now often exposed to harmful algal blooms. It may be just a coincidence, but experiments have shown that chronic BMAA exposure can trigger neurodegenerative changes in both humans and non-human primates. Acute and chronic exposure to such toxins can be harmful to both humans and animals and lead to respiratory diseases, severe dermatitis, mucosal damage, cancer, organ failure and death, the researchers explain.
Global warming leads to more algal bloom
Due to the increasing global warming, the harmful algal blooms are becoming more and more common and the authors of the study fear that even more BMAA will accumulate in dolphins. This happens both through exposure to the algal blooms and through the consumption of marine animals previously exposed to the cyanotoxin. Therefore, dolphins can be the first sign of bad environmental conditions and, although it is still not clear whether this bloom in dolphins or humans directly leads to Alzheimer's, this poses a risk, which should be avoided at all costs. The main question is whether the dolphins experienced cognitive deficits and disorientation before they ended up stranded. Until further investigation clarifies this question, people should take all possible steps to avoid exposure to cyanobacteria. (as)