A review and assessment of cyanobacterial toxins as cardiovascular health hazards

Zorica Svirčev*, Liang Chen, Kinga Sántha, Damjana Drobac Backović, Stamenko Šušak, Aleksandra Vulin, Tamara Palanački Malešević, Geoffrey A. Codd, Jussi Meriluoto

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview Article or Literature Reviewpeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)
    33 Downloads (Pure)


    Eutrophicated waters frequently support bloom-forming cyanobacteria, many of which produce potent cyanobacterial toxins (cyanotoxins). Cyanotoxins can cause adverse health effects in a wide range of organisms where the toxins may target the liver, other internal organs, mucous surfaces and the skin and nervous system. This review surveyed more than 100 studies concerning the cardiovascular toxicity of cyanotoxins and related topics. Over 60 studies have described various negative effects on the cardiovascular system by seven major types of cyanotoxins, i.e. the microcystin (MC), nodularin (NOD), cylindrospermopsin (CYN), anatoxin (ATX), guanitoxin (GNTX), saxitoxin (STX) and lyngbyatoxin (LTX) groups. Much of the research was done on rodents and fish using high, acutely toxin concentrations and unnatural exposure routes (such as intraperitoneal injection), and it is thus concluded that the emphasis in future studies should be on oral, chronic exposure of mammalian species at environmentally relevant concentrations. It is also suggested that future in vivo studies are conducted in parallel with studies on cells and tissues. In the light of the presented evidence, it is likely that cyanotoxins do not constitute a major risk to cardiovascular health under ordinary conditions met in everyday life. The risk of illnesses in other organs, in particular the liver, is higher under the same exposure conditions. However, adverse cardiovascular effects can be expected due to indirect effects arising from damage in other organs. In addition to risks related to extraordinary concentrations of the cyanotoxins and atypical exposure routes, chronic exposure together with co-existing diseases could make some of the cyanotoxins more dangerous to cardiovascular health.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2829-2863
    Number of pages35
    JournalArchives of Toxicology
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022
    MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


    • Cardiovascular system
    • Cyanobacteria
    • Cyanotoxins
    • Health
    • Microcystins


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