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Cyanobacteria: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Penang Institute

10 Jalan Brown

George Town, Pulau Pinang 10350

Malaysia

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Penang Institute along with Universiti Sains Malaysia is proud to host a public forum titled “Cyanobacteria: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”


Cyanobacteria: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Cyanobacteria, also known as the blue green algae are one of the most remarkable group of organisms. They are responsible for the contribution of oxygen to the atmosphere from millions of years ago; giving rise to land plants and forming the basis of food chains. Some cyanobacteria have long been used as food or food supplements. For instance, Arthrospira (originally known as Spirulina), has been growing commercially and marketed as a ‘health food’ that is rich in vitamins and mineral salts. Chemical compounds produced by these algae have been utilised as colourants in food, for pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. Cyanobacteria also have a role in the vital search for alternatives of fossil fuels. Commonly found in most water bodies, cyanobacteria sometimes can grow substantially to form blooms. Unfortunately, many strains and species of cyanobacteria produce toxic compounds that can pose major problems in recreational and drinking water supplies, causing livestock death and human intoxication.

Over a century ago, the first documented case of lethal intoxication of livestock was reported in Australia. Since then, cyanotoxins have been shown to be dangerous to various groups of wild and domestic animals. But they can also cause harm to humans. In 1996, an outbreak of acute liver failure occurred at a dialysis centre in Caruaru, Brazil. Hundred patients developed acute liver failure, and of these 76 died. In 2012, a series of blooms caused major deterioration in South Korea’s drinking water quality affecting water supplies to 10 million people in Seoul and its surrounding areas. In Malaysia, knowledge of this algae remains weak. Many of us are unaware of their existence, their potential and possible threats. My aim is to ensure that these unknown organisms will not remain unknown forever. We need to value them but also take precautions.


About the Speaker:

Dr. Faradina Merican Mohd. Sidik Merican is an algal taxonomist and ecologist. Her work focuses on the diversity and ecology of Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) from diverse habitat including extreme environments (Antarctic). Using a combination of morphological and molecular approaches, she utilizes field samples and cultured isolates to increase knowledge of this poorly known group. Dr. Faradina was amongst the first Malaysian scientists in Universiti Sains Malaysia to participate in an Antarctic expedition to study algae (2004/2005). At the international level, she has been appointed as a taxonomic reviewer for the Register of Antarctic Species under the WoRMS Data Management Team Malaysia. She is also a recipient of the Sultan Mizan Antarctic Research Foundation Fellowship to carry out research on Antarctic terrestrial algae.

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Penang Institute

10 Jalan Brown

George Town, Pulau Pinang 10350

Malaysia

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