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   Index



 

ALGAE

 

[Largely unrevised as yet; Summary yet to be added]


To the non-botanist the algae are a mystery. He may be aware that the seaweeds and the pond "blooms" are algae, but is unlikely to be aware of the almost universal distribution of these complex organisms in moist environments. The direct economic importance of the algae is considerable and is likely to increase rapidly as the human population of the world expands faster than the conventional sources of protein foodstuffs. Some species,too, produce toxic secretions which are dangerous to domestic animals and to man himself.

It is certain that man's contact with algae will increase, and it is probable that the role of algae in human disease either as opportunistic pathogens (e.g. Protothecosis, Davies 1972) or as cutaneous irritants or sensitisers has been underestimated, because unsuspected.

Even to the botanist the algae present considerable problems. They are difficult to classify, and even define. The outline which follows is based on the authoritative works by Prescott (1969) and by Chapman & Chapman (1973). Algae may be loosely defined as chlorophyll-bearing organisms (and their colourless relatives) which are thalloid - that is to say, have no true roots, stems or leaves. Some algae are commensally associated with fungi to form lichens.

Botanical classifications are based on morphology and are an indication of presumed evolutionary relationships. As has been shown in the account of many families of flowering plants, botanically closely related genera are more likely to show chemical similarities than are those less closely related, although there are notable exceptions to this generalisation. There are a number of controversial features in any available classification of the algae, but the taxonomists agree about the grouping of algae into classes. though they differ over the grouping of the classes into phyla or divisions. Following Chapman & Chapman (1973) the following phyla or divisions may be listed. The genera so far proved to be of interest to the dermatologist are the only ones included.

Cyanophyta - Blue-green algae (not accepted as "true" algae by all authorities):

Microcystis, Anabaena and Lyngbya

Rhodophyta - Red algae

Chlorophyta- Green algae:

Chlorella, Prototheca, Scenedesmus, Ankistrodesmum, Chlorococcum

Euglenophyta - Euglenoids

Chloromonadophyta - Chloromonads

Xanthophyta - Yellow-green algae

Bacillariophyta - Diatoms

Chrysophyta - Golden-brown algae:

Fragillaria

Phaeophyta - Brown algae

Pyrrhophyta - Dinoflagellates

Cryptophyta - Cryptomonads

Chemistry

Phycocyanin in blue-green algae has been suspected of allergenicity on the basis of patch tests (Cohen & Reif 1953). A toxic principle which may play some part in causing dermatitis has been isolated (Chu 1969, Moikeha & Chu 1971, Moikeha et al. 1971).

A hepatotoxic and photosensitising substance is present in Microcystis sp. and other water-blooms (Kingsbury 1964).

Dermatitis

Four clinical syndromes have been attributed to the effects of algae. An erythematous papulovesicular eruption on areas of skin not protected by a bathing costume was reported in a child who had swum in a lake with a "bloom" of blue-green algae. Patch tests to Anabaena were positive. Another blue-green algae, Lyngbya majuscula causes seabather's dermatitis in Hawaii (Grauer & Arnold 1961). The dermatitis may effect only skin covered by a tight fitting costume (Grauer 1959). Blue-green algae of various genera produced toxic or allergic dermatitis in Czechoslovakia (Krauskopf 1973). Other cases in bathers were reviewed by Schwimmer & Schwimmer (1955) and Hardin (1961).

An eczematous eruption beginning on the hands, and sometimes becoming more extensive, has been shown (Fraser & Lyell 1963, Beer et al. 1968, Beer & Jones 1969) to be caused by the green algae Fragillaria striatulata, which becomes established in the summer months on the ropes of lobster pots.

"Redfeed dermatitis" may ultimately be caused by certain coloured algae, perhaps Gymnodinium, which support the orange-red crustaceans, known as "redfeed". Fish which have eaten this crustacean in any quantity do not keep well after being caught and fishermen and processors who handle them may develop irritation and ulceration of the skin of the hands. "Redfeed" dermatitis has been reported from the Baltic (Kersten & Zschunke 1955, Bowszyc 1966) and from the United States (Schwartz & Tabershaw 1945). The role of algal toxins is unproven.

An atopic sensitivity to algae has been reported. Heise (1949) found blue-green algae responsible for seasonal rhinitis, related to swimming in lakes. Many blue-green and green algae are airborne in significant numbers at certain seasons. This observation led McElhenney et al. (1962) to skin test with algae children with respiratory allergic disorders; they obtained some positive reactions. Six strains of green algae commonly encountered in air, water and soil samples in the United States were used to skin-test 79 atopic patients; 47 gave positive results; species of Chlorella, Chlorococcum and Scenedesmus were chiefly involved (Bernstein & Safferman 1966). Further investigations (Bernstein & Safferman 1973) showed a high incidence of positive skin tests to a Chlorella species found in house dust, in patients with perennial rhinitis. Urticaria may accompany the rhinitis.

Sensitisation to the algal component of lichens has also been reported.

Photosensitisation has been reported in livestock drinking water containing heavy concentrations of blue-green algae (Wild 1961, Kingsbury 1964, Schwimmer & Schwimmer 1968). It accompanies blood in the faeces and icterus in those few cases of poisoning that are not rapidly fatal.



ALGAE - GIGARTINACEAE

 

Chondrus crispus
Irish Moss

 

Gigartina mammillosa

Subcutaneous injection into rats of carragenin derived from these species induces sensitivity to cold. Necrotising lesions occur in the nose, paws and tail (Selye 1965). Carragenin is said to stimulate collagen production in wounds (Grant 1962). Injection of carragenin into the cornea of guinea pigs causes granuloma formation (Burns & Beighle 1960).


References

  • Asai S, Krzanowski JJ, Anderson WH, Martin DF, Polson JB, Lockey RF, et al. (1982) Effects of the toxin of red tide, Ptychodiscus brevis, on canine tracheal smooth muscle: a possible new asthma-triggering mechanism. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 69(5): 418-428.
  • Beer WE, Jones M and Jones WE (1968) Dermatoses in lobster fishermen. Br. Med. J. i: 807.
  • Beer WE and Jones WE (1969) Dermatoses in lobster fishermen. Br. Med. J. i: 572.
  • Bernstein IL and Safferman RS (1966) Sensitivity of skin and bronchial mucosa to green algae. J. Allergy 38: 166.
  • Bernstein IL and Safferman RS (1973) Clinical sensitivity to green algae demonstrated by nasal challenge and in vitro tests of immediate hypersensitivity. J. Allergy 51: 22.
  • Bowszyc J (1966) Redfeed dermatitis. A professional disease of workers in the fishing industry caused by Baltic herring and mackerel [Polish]. Przegl. Derm. 53: 39.
  • Burns RP and Beighle R (1960) Experimental carragenin granulomas of the cornea. Archs Ophth. 64: 712.
  • Chapman VJ and Chapman DJ (1973) The Algae. London: Macmillan.
  • Chu GW (1969) A unique toxic lipid from a Hawaiian dermatitis-producing alga. J. Formosan Med. Ass. 68: 570.
  • Cohen SG and Reif CB (1953) Cutaneous sensitization to blue-green algae. J. Allergy 24: 452.
  • Corliss JO (1984) The Kingdom Protista and its 45 phyla. BioSystems 17: 87-126.
  • Davies RR (1972) Protothecosis and opportunistic fungal infections. Trans. St John's Hosp. Derm. Soc. 58: 38.
  • Fraser JH and Lyell A (1963) Dogger Bank itch. Lancet i: 61.
  • Grant WM (1962) Toxicology of the Eye. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C Thomas.
  • Grauer FH (1959) Dermatitis escharotica caused by a marine alga. Hawaii Med. J. 19: 32.
  • Grauer FH and Arnold HJ (1961) Seaweed dermatitis. Archs Derm. 84: 720.
  • Hardin FF (1961) 'Seabathers eruption'. J. Med. Ass. Georgia 50: 450.
  • Heise HA (1949) Symptoms of hay fever caused by algae. J. Allergy 20: 383.
  • Jeanmougin M and Civatte J (1988) Occupational eczema with photosensitivity due to Japanese sargassum. Contact Dermatitis 19(5): 394.
  • Kersten E and Zschunke E (1955) Redfeed dermatitis, a skin affection frequent in the fishing industries. Dtsch. Gesundhwes. 10: 194.
  • Kingsbury JM (1964) Poisonous Plants of the United States and Canada. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
  • Krauskopf J (1973) Phytodermatitis caused by Cyanophyta and algae. Cs. Derm. 48: 195.
  • McElhenny TR, Bold HC, Brown RM and McGovern JP (1962) Algae: a cause of inhalant allergy in children. Ann. Allergy 20: 739.
  • Moikeha SN and Chu GW (1971) Dermatitis producing alga Lyngbya majuscula Gomont in Hawaii. II. Biological properties of the toxic factor. J. Phycol. 7: 8.
  • Moikeha SN, Chu GW and Berger LR (1971) Dermatitis producing alga Lyngbya majuscula Gomont in Hawaii. I. Isolation and chemical characterization of the toxic factor. J. Phycol. 7: 4.
  • Prescott GW (1969) The Algae: a Review. London: Nelson.
  • Schwartz L and Tabershaw IR (1945) Dermatitis in the fish industry. J. Industr. Hyg. Toxicol. 27: 27.
  • Schwimmer D and Schwimmer M (1968) Medical aspects of phycology. In: Jackson DF (Ed.) Algae, Man and the EnvironmentSyracuse University Press.
  • Schwimmer M and Schwimmer D (1955) The Role of Algae and Plankton in Medicine. New York: Grune and Stratton.
  • Selye H (1965) Induced hypersensitivity to cold. Science 149: 201.
  • van der Willigen AH, Habets JMW, van Joost T, Stolz E and Nienhuis PH (1988) Contact allergy to iodine in Japanese sargassum. Contact Dermatitis 18(4): 250-252.
  • Wild H (1961) Harmful aquatic plants in Africa and Madagascar. Kirkia 2: 1-66.



Richard J. Schmidt [Valid HTML 4.01!]



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