Blue-green algae

The phenomena of “harmful algae blooms (HAB)”, when cyanobacteria in a river rapidly produce cyanotoxins due to warm weather conditions, can be devastating to local wildlife, ecosystems and people. Detecting HAB efficiently and reliably is the first step in ensuring a clean and safe water supply. Thermo Fisher Scientific is leading the way in determining cylindrospermopsin and anatoxin-a in drinking water with the new Thermo Scientific TM TSQ Quantis TM triple quadrupole mass spectrometry platform — offering greater accuracy, sensitivity and reliability.

A type of bacteria known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae can sometimes produce cyanotoxins and endanger human, animal and fish health and is a major hazard to water supplies.

Blue-green algae is found almost everywhere, but particularly in lakes and rivers where, under certain conditions, they reproduce exponentially to form harmful algal blooms (HABs).

These HABs can produce harmful toxins, such as anatoxin-a (also known as Very Fast Death Factor), which can poison animals and humans. Cyanotoxins can also accumulate in other animals such as fish and shellfish, and cause poisonings such as shellfish poisoning.

The threat posed by anatoxin-a and other cyanotoxins is increasing as both fertilizer runoff — which leads to overly nutrient enriched lakes and rivers, often depleting oxygen in the water — and higher global temperatures contribute to a greater frequency and prevalence of blue-green algal blooms.

These toxins pose a threat when found in drinking water supply and need to be monitored closely.

While a variety of methods and appliances for the detection of toxins already exist, scientists have called for more research to improve reliability and efficacy.

Thermo Fisher products are leading the way in the water testing arena, exemplified by the new Thermo ScientificTM TSQ QuantisTM triple quadrupole Liquid Chromatography MS platform.

The TSQ Quantis MS seamlessly integrates with industry-leading quantitation software, HPLCs and UHPLCs, as well as sample preparation solutions; it also offers enhanced efficiency during targeted quantitation workflows for a wide array of molecular species.

Other benefits include:

  • Superb sensitivity that generates data for all molecular species, even in complex matrices
  • Outstanding robustness that enables increased confidence in data while prolonging instrument uptime
  • Reliability and reproducibility improve data quality for every run and every sample
  • Close integration with application-specific software ensures increased productivity across all application markets
  • Simplicity and ease-of-use allow users of all expertise levels to acquire high-quality data with improved confidence in results

The evidence

Thermo Fisher put its new machine to the test, using the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Method 545: Determination of cylindrospermopsin and anatoxin-a in drinking water by liquid chromatography electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (LC/ESI-MS/MS).

The study results proved the value of the TSQ Quantis triple quadrupole MS. It is highly sensitive, with adequate sensitivity obtained with 5 μL, 10 μL and 25 μL injection volumes for drinking water matrices.

This represents a dramatic reduction in the injection volume than what the EPA is currently recommending and results in less matrix injected, thereby reducing maintenance of the LC-MS system.

In addition, the study demonstrated the high level of accuracy, reproducibility and reliability of the TSQ Quantis triple quadrupole MS in the quantitation of cylindrospermopsin and anatoxin-a in drinking water.

The challenges related to the reliable detection of bacteria in drinking water supplies have always been significant for water corporations, scientists and instrument makers.

The new Thermo ScientificTM triple quadrupole LC-MS/MS is one example of how Thermo Fisher is making huge strides in this area, providing regulated and unregulated detection methods.

This partner content is brought to you by Thermo Fisher. For more information, visit

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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