Use of molecular probes to assess geographic distribution of Pfiesteria species
We have developed multiple polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods for the detection of Pfiesteria sp. in cultures and environmental samples. More than 2,100 water and sediment samples from estuarine sites of the U.S. Atlantic and gulf coasts were assayed for the presence of Pfiesteria piscicida Steidinger & Burkholder and Pfiesteria shumwayae Glasgow & Burkholder by PCR probing of extracted DNA. Positive results were found in about 3% of samples derived from routine monitoring of coastal waters and about 8% of sediments. The geographic range of both species was the same, ranging from New York to Texas. Pfiesteria spp. are likely common and generally benign inhabitants of coastal areas, but their presence maintains a potential for fish and human health problems. Key words: molecular probes, PCR, Pfiesteria, toxic dinoflagellates.