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Harmful algae can cause economic damage to fisheries and tourism. Additionally, toxins produced by harmful algae and ingested via contaminated shellfish can be potentially fatal to humans. Monitoring these harmful algae can be difficult as determining cell morphology by light microscopy may be insufficient to give definitive species attribution. The goal of the EU FP7 project MIDTAL (microarrays for the detection of toxic algae) was to achieve rapid species identification using species-specific probes for rRNA genes in a microarray chip format. Field samples from the Orkney Islands, an area of the UK that has a number of nuisance and toxic species, were tested with the second generation of the microarray chip. Species-specific probes were looked at for the toxin-producing dinoflagellates Alexandrium tamarense Group III (North American clade) and Dinophysis acuta and also general class probes for Dinophyta, Heterokontaphyta and Prymnesiophyta over the course of a year. These were compared with light microscopy cell counts. A good agreement in determining presence and absence between the methods was found. The second generation microarray is potentially more sensitive than cell counts. However, further work is needed to ensure that the microarray signal for each species provides an accurate quantitative assessment.

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