Research – Pathogens can hitch a ride on plastic to reach the sea

Phys Org

Microplastics are a pathway for pathogens on land to reach the ocean, with likely consequences for human and wildlife health, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.

The study, published April 26 in the journal Scientific Reports, is the first to connect microplastics in the ocean with land-based pathogens. It found that microplastics can make it easier for disease-causing pathogens to concentrate in plastic-contaminated areas of the ocean.

The pathogens studied—Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium (Crypto) and Giardia—can infect both humans and animals. They are recognized by the World Health Organization as underestimated causes of illness from shellfish consumption and are found throughout the ocean.

“It’s easy for people to dismiss plastic problems as something that doesn’t matter for them, like, ‘I’m not a turtle in the ocean; I won’t choke on this thing,'” said corresponding author Karen Shapiro, an infectious disease expert and associate professor in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “But once you start talking about disease and health, there’s more power to implement change. Microplastics can actually move germs around, and these germs end up in our water and our food.”

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