Must Be Something in the Water

Blue-green algae produces estrogen-like compound that disrupts reproductive hormones

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) New research reveals blue-green algae may be responsible for producing an estrogen-like compound in the environment, which has the potential to disrupt reproductive hormones.

The blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) could compromise the health of a variety of fish and plants as well as humans.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, professor Theodore Henry and colleagues studied cyanobacteria in zebrafish and discovered how exposure to the algae known as Microcystis induced a response similar to that seen in estrogen-like compounds in larval fish.

The fish in contact with the blue-green algal cells tested positive for a well-known estrogenic biomarker that acts as an endocrine disruptor. (The endocrine system of glands secretes hormones into the bloodstream to regulate the body.)

The effects of this exposure in humans can include rashes, fever and liver damage.

The study was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ecology of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB).

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Review Date: 
February 18, 2011
Last Updated:
February 22, 2011