Domoic Acid

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Natural Source

Marine diatom species of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia

Laboratory Source



DA is a neurotoxin. Domoic acid is an excitatory amino acid containing the structure of glutamic acid and resembling kainic acid.

Health Hazards

Route of Entry

Ingestion of molluscan shellfish or crab with high levels of DA. Anchovies and sardines can also accumulate DA.

Signs and Symptoms

DA Shellfish Poisoning (DASP, or Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning) is characterized by vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 24 hours of ingestion. Neurological symptoms may develop within 48 hours and include headache, dizziness, confusion, disorientation, permanent loss of shortterm memory, motor weakness, seizures, profuse respiratory secretions, cardiac arrhythmias, coma and possibly death.

Toxicity Dose DataThe exact LD50 for humans is unknown; for mice the LD50 is 3.6 mg/kg (intraperitoneal)

Medical Precautions/Treatment


History of ingestion of bivalve mollusks followed by characteristic symptoms. The most accepted method for detecting DA in seafood is a reversed-phase HPLC with ultraviolet detection.


None available


None available


Supportive; may require extended rehabilitation.

Emory Requirements

Report all exposures

Containment Requirements


Containment Level 2 facilities, equipment, and operational practices. No open-bench work should be performed with DA. All work should be performed inside a Biosafety Cabinet. Use of needlesafe sharps is encouraged. Centrifuge rotors must have a lid, samples should be loaded/unloaded inside the BSC and the centrifuge should be decontaminated with appropriate disinfectant after use.

Supplemental References


Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories


Domoic acid


(HAB)-Associated Illness

Spill Procedures


Notify others working in the lab. Rinse gloves with decontamination solution and don new gloves. Cover area of the spill with paper towels and apply decontamination solution, working from the perimeter towards the center. Exit and keep others from entering the laboratory. Allow 1 hour of contact time before entering the laboratory without respiratory protection. Cleanup and dispose of spill materials.


Contact Emory's Biosafety Officer (404-727-8863),
the EHSO Office (404-727-5922), or
The Spill Response Team (404-727-2888).

Exposure Procedures

Mucous membrane

Flush eyes, mouth or nose for 15 minutes at eyewash station.

Other Exposures

Wash area with soap and water for 15 minutes.


Immediately report incident to supervisor, complete an employee incident report in PeopleSoft.

Medical Followup 

7am-4pm (OIM): EUH (404-686-7941) EUHM (404-686-7106) WW (404-728-6431)

After Hours: OIM NP On Call 404-686-5500 PIC# 50464

Needle Stick (OIM): EUH (404-686-8587) EUHM (404-686-2352)

Yerkes: Maureen Thompson Office (404-727-8012) Cell (404-275-0963)



Not destroyed by heat. DA is water-soluble. Surfaces can be decontaminated with 10% freshly made bleach.


Heat stable

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Minimum PPE Requirements

At a minimum, personnel are required to don gloves, closed toed shoes, lab coat, and appropriate face/eye protection prior to working with DA. Additional PPE may be required depending on lab specific SOPs.

Additional Precautions

Depending on the risk assessment, respirators may be required when working with conotoxins. Fit testing and training is required annually per Emory's Respiratory Program (PDF)

Wash and dry hands after handling DA

Additional Requirements

Regulatory Requirements

Contact the Biosafety Office via