A new study looks to firm the link between Motor Neurone Disease and blue-green algae, with researchers taking samples from Lake Wyangan.
Associate Professor Ken Rodgers, Chief Investigator on the study, said their research analysed algael blooms – containing the toxin collected BMAA – by the Department of Primary Industry (DPI) and includes those collected in Griffith.
“The toxins we’re interested in (BMAA) have been detected in a lot of countries in the world … no one had actually analysed the algal blooms in Australia. The levels here were pretty high. We get a lot of algal blooms here. There is certainly a lot of toxins in our environment.”
The links between exposure to BMAA and MND are yet to be fully explored, but he says a number of researchers have noticed links.
“The only completely watertight was published by guys in New Hampshire. They published a paper that said statistically living within a kilometre of algae showed an increase,” he said.
Griffith City Council conduct regular testing and monitoring of the lake, putting out alerts and restricting access when levels are particularly high. According to council’s website, the lake currently sits at a low amber alert. This means there are currently no restrictions, but continued sampling and surveillance are undertaken.
Council has also committed to finding a solution for the Lake’s issues, including offering out expressions of interest, employment of a project officer and use of technology to test and control algae outbreaks, among others.
Dr Rogers says in coming weeks he plans to “dig out samples” from Lake Wyangan and analyse any algal bloom found.
“A few neurologists have noticed a higher amount of patients than certain places should have. It could happen by chance, but given the information out there it could be a hot spot for MND.”
Michelle Vearing, President of Griffith’s MND support group, says she’s in support of further research to examine link. The blue-green algae – MND link in the Griffith region has also been examined by Macquarie University’s Dominic Rowe and Gilles Guillemin over the last few years.
“We absolutely need to take a closer look at this … We’re one of three regions in Australia that have the highest ratio of MND to population. The average is one in 40,000 to have MND, but in the Griffith region we’ve got around 10 patients.”