When Alaska shellfish turns deadly – Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning

In the Alaska wilderness, at least you can see the things that’ll kill you. That’s what I say when I get tired of questions about bears. But it’s not true. The smallest things that can kill you here are single-celled creatures you need a microscope to see. They can find their way into the food chain, into your clam bucket, your chowder, and then into your nerve cells. Minutes or hours later, you tingle or go numb. Nerve cells shut down in a rapid cascade until you lose control over limbs and lungs. This is paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP. It comes from a tiny species of plankton called Alexandrium, which produces an even tinier chemical called saxitoxin, which is a thousand times more toxic than sarin gas, and was once studied as part of our biological weapons program in the 1950s and 1960s. click here to read the story 09:00

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