Group works to let locals test shellfish for toxins

KODIAK — An Alaska group is working to create an at-home tester for detective toxins in local seafood.

Alaska SeaGrant officials at a presentation on Friday said they are working on a tester for paralytic shellfish poisoning, an illness that can cause tingling in the lips, tongue, fingers and toes and eventual breathing problems.

Julie Matweyou, marine advisory program agent with Alaska SeaGrant, said testing currently costs $125 per test and has a time delay, as samples need to be sent away to be tested, The Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

Researchers have developed an electrochemical tester for PSP inspired by the blood sugar tests diabetics use. Pat Tester with Ocean Tester said the machine currently takes 20 minutes, but that time will hopefully drop to five minutes or less over the next few years.

Researchers, including Tester, Matweyou and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials are currently testing samples with both their new machine and the standardized testers to check accuracy. Before the machine can make it to Alaska residents it needs to undergo laboratory validation followed by field validation and ultimately testing by the community.

“I’m hoping in one year, I will be back to put this in your hands,” Tester said.

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