ISSN ONLINE: 2558-815X
ISSN PRINT: 1584-9244
ISSN-L: 1584-9244

A theoretical estimation of exposure to shellfish toxins of different population groups in Bulgaria


Introduction. Shellfish poisoning could be caused by ingestion of shellfish contaminated by bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, pesticides, marine biotoxins etc.
The objective of the study was to determine the theoretical human exposure to shellfish toxins of Bulgarian consumers. The incidence of registered cases of intoxications due to marine biotoxins ingestion – “Toxic effect: Other fish and shellfish poisoning (T61.2)” in regional hospitals was investigated.
Materials and methods. Acute exposure (AE), chronic exposure (CE) and hazard quotient (HQ) are calculated based on experimentally-determined levels of shellfish toxins in mussels harvested from North Bulgarian coast in the period 2012 – 2018. We performed a retrospective analysis of the frequency of the diagnosis T61.2, based on medical documentation for the period 1.05.2012 – 7.12.2018 in hospitals in Varna and Dobrich, Bulgaria.
Results. Shellfish toxins that most often occur in mussels are domoic acid (DA), yessotoxin (YTX) and pectenotoxin-2 (PTX2). The calculated maximum AE was 1.00 mg/kg bw for DA, 0.02 mg/kg bw for YTX and 0.0045 mg/kg bw for PTX2, respectively. Maximum CE for DA was 0.01 mg/kg bw/day. All estimated values were much lower than those legislated by European Food Safety Authority thresholds. The exposure to marine biotoxins was estimated based on contamination data of mussels harvested from the same region.  The analysis for the whole period showed that its frequency is lower than 1%. Clinicians report that this diagnosis is presumptive, based on recent ingestion of shellfish and presence of symptoms consistent with shellfish poisoning.
Conclusions. Estimated theoretical acute and chronic exposures agree upon the incidence of clinical cases with the studied diagnosis. A parallel investigation on a prolonged period is required, to increase the accuracy of these results.
Keywords: acute exposure, chronic exposure, phycotoxins, mussels, Black Sea.

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Correspondence address:
Zlatina V. Peteva
Address: Tsar Osvoboditel, 9000 Varna, Bulgaria
E-mail:, Phone: +0035 988 563 9691


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Peteva ZV, Georgieva SK, Kalinova GN, Zlateva SZ, Stancheva MD. A theoretical estimation of exposure to shellfish toxins of different population groups in Bulgaria. Arch Balk Med Union. 2021;56(1):51-57.