Health risks of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in Norway and Spain

Project facts

Project promoter
Autonomous University of Madrid
Project Number:
Target groups
Researchers or scientists
Initial project cost:
Final project cost:
From EEA Grants:
€ 49,296
The project is carried out in:

More information


Cyanobacteria is an increasing problem due to the toxic compounds they produce. Cyanobacterial blooms are health hazards because they may produce toxins as microcystin, involved in cancer development, or neurotoxins affecting animals. Other less known health hazards, such as the presence of pathogenic heterotrophic bacteria in cyanobacterial biomass could harm both humans (Legionella) and wild fauna (avian botulism). Climate change is promoting the dispersion of some toxic cyanobacteria to locations where they were unknown some decades ago representing new situations. This project aims to reveal the ecological interaction between associated pathogens as Legionella or those producing the avian botulism toxin, and cyanobacterial massive growth both in planktic and benthic habitats and to identify the invasive capability of cyanobacteria from the south to central Europe and Scandinavia. The Norwegian team has the knowledge and the strategies to evaluate the pathogenic strains related to cyanobacterial blooms and have developed the instruments to sample the aerosols.

Summary of project results

The aims of this project are to reveal the ecological interaction between some associated pathogens as Legionella or those producing the avian botulism toxin, and cyanobacterial massive growth, both in planktic and benthic habitats and to identify the invasive capability of some toxic cyanobacteria coming from the south (Northern Africa) to central Europe and eventually Scandinavia. As some pathogenic bacteria associated to cyanobacteria may be associated to warm areas (thermal water bodies) the project was extended in a collaboration with the Dr. Arni Einarsson from the Myvatn Lake Research Center (Iceland), where thermal waterbodies are very abundant and also Myvatn Lake has a large cyanobacterial bloom. The ongoing projects and collaboration between the Norwegian and the Spanish group for several years now allowed achieving an excellent output from this project. Until now the interaction is based in virtual communication and interaction within congresses and meetings. However, a more solid interaction has been obtained in the course of this mobility funding opportunity, allowing an exchange of researchers and Ph.D, students leading to an exchange of samples and analytical procedures. Moreover, the new collaboration established between the previous two groups with the group from Iceland has extended the interaction opportunities and opens new gateways. Besides, the project has initiated a network building for early career scientists .We also organized an Advanced Practical Course for Ph.D.s or Early Career scientists on Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins oriented to Norwegian and Spanish citizens but also open to other nationalities (thanks to the funding from the European COST action CYANOCOST). This course had a duration of 40 presential hours. Thanks to the interaction developed in this project two master students from the European Master of Inland Water Quality Assessment were enrolled and continued part of the projects developed in this consortium. In particular one of the students developed his master project in Bo, continuing with the aerosolization project from February 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Kleiven and Dr. Utkilen, and another two PhD students, worked at UAM under the supervision of Dr. Perona working on cyanobacteria composition and on Legionella analysis in benthic cyanobacterial communities. Several papers are under production and partners are actively seeking for further funding under other research funding schemes.

Summary of bilateral results

As it is stated previously several options have been forecasted during this first segment of the project, the application of several European projects (Marie Curie-ITN, JPY-Water, other calls) was prepared and in some cases executed, including the concepts developed in this project. A new Marie Curie ITN proposal has been recently submitted, including part of the principles of this project, by a total of about 3.7 M€. Although the proposal obtained good marks it was rejected. We have organized a consortium which will be long-lived. Several proposals are emanating and will emanate in the future from the consortium. In the horizon, we have recently submitted a new Marie-Curie ITN proposal, and other proposals joining efforts will be put forward. At the moment the priority anyhow is the publication of the results as a way of perpetuating the obtained results. All publications obtained from this project will acknowledge EEA grant. We also believe that the network efforts developed during the summer school will greatly contribute to the sustainability of the consortium. This interaction has been a win-win process, in which some technicalities were improved by the Norwegian partner and some by the Spanish partner, playing Iceland a relevant role in the field sampling. The knowledge and the technical capabilities of the three institutions were complementary and represented an excellent framework for the appropriate development of the project. The outputs of this project have been extraordinary with a very successful Advanced Course and vast amount of research done, considering that this project did not fund any research. This partnership was essential for the development of the Project. The exchange of students between the partners and the fluent interaction between the senior researchers allowed the creation of a mature consortium with common interest and interdisciplinary capabilities. This mature consortium with no doubt will work as an entity in the future and proper research programmes or projects will be applied for, making possible the production of high quality science between both partners and others.