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An analytical perspective on detection, screening, and confirmation in phycology, with particular reference to toxins and toxin-producing species



Knowledge concerning the ability of microalgae to produce metabolites of interest such as toxins or high-value secondary metabolites requires exhaustive details to be supplied on how the research was conducted. These should include the microalgal species and strain characterization, the culture conditions, the cell density, and physiological state at the time of harvesting, the harvesting method, the sample pre-treatment protocol, and the subsequent instrumental analytical separation/detection system. In this comment, we discuss issues that affect algal research from an analytical chemistry perspective, particularly (i) the need to specify detection capabilities of the entire method (i.e., limits of detection or threshold detection levels), which we illustrate in relation to classification of a species or strain as being “toxin producing” or “non-toxin producing”; and (ii) the requirements that have to be satisfied to confirm a microalgal species (new or not) as a producer of a particular chemical of interest for phycologists, which again we illustrate in relation to toxins. A successful collaboration among phycologists and analytical chemists will only be achieved as a result of a synergistic collaboration between the two disciplines, with a reciprocal understanding at least at a background level.