Toxin in Darling: Disease linked to bacteria found in three places

Water in the weir pool at Pooncarie showing signs of algae in February 2016.

Water in the weir pool at Pooncarie showing signs of algae in February 2016.

BREAKTHROUGH research has revealed the presence of a toxin, which scientists believe could cause the deadly motor neurone disease, in the lower Darling River.

Researchers from NSW universities tested water from 13 places across the state with blue-green algae outbreaks for a toxin called BMAA, which is produced by algae bacteria.

BMAA has been linked to motor neurone disease, a progressive illness that affects one's ability to move, speak, eat and breathe and kills about half of all its patients within 18 months of diagnosis.

The scientists found BMAA in 70 per cent of the samples, including in water from three sites along the lower Darling at Burtundy, Pooncarie and Menindee, as well as from the Murrumbidgee River at Balranald 

The toxin was also found at sites in metropolitan Sydney.

However, BMAA was not detected in samples taken from the Murray River, at Colignan and Euston.

The Darling River samples were taken at different points during 2015, when the lower Darling was last bound for a cease-to-flow, while the Murray River samples were taken during an algal bloom in 2016.

The findings could raise greater concerns about the effects of the Darling River's management on the health of humans, livestock and plants.

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