Plastic trash helps spread pathogens in the oceans

(ORDO NEWS) — Ecologists from the United States have found that microplastic particles spread land-based pathogenic microbes throughout the oceans and contribute to their penetration into populations of commercial mollusks, fish and other inhabitants of the hydrosphere. This was announced on Tuesday by the press service of the University of California at Davis (UCD).

“People rarely take plastic pollution in the ocean seriously because they think they can’t choke on it, as turtles and other marine life can. water and food,” said UCD Associate Professor Karen Shapiro, quoted by the university’s press service.

Every year, approximately 300 million tons of plastic waste ends up in wastewater and landfills, most of which is not decomposed by microbes and remains almost untouched for tens and even hundreds of years.

For this reason, ecologists and oceanologists often jokingly call the last half century the “plastic period” because of the huge number of polymer microfragments in the waters of the world’s oceans.

These particles do not stay in the water for a long time and, apparently, are eaten by marine life. A significant part of them can enter the human body along with the meat of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

Shapiro and her colleagues became interested in whether these particles could act as carriers of various parasitic protozoa, as well as bacterial and fungal infections, throughout the ocean and other regions of the hydrosphere.

Microplastics and microbes

To obtain such information, the scientists prepared a set of microplastic particles, which they immersed in cultures of three common single-celled parasites – Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium parvum, and Giardia enterica.

All of these pathogens, which commonly affect humans and domestic animals, have recently been discovered by oceanographers in marine mollusk populations around the world.

Shapiro and her colleagues suggested that their peddlers could be plastic particles that enter the oceans along with sewage. To test this theory, the scientists looked at whether these parasites can survive on the surface of different forms of microplastic for a long time and spread with its help among marine life.

These experiments showed that cells of all three types of parasites actively multiplied on the surface of polyethylene spherical particles and inside polyester fibers widely used in the production of clothing, cosmetics and fishing tackle.

Both those and other particles, as scientists note, are often found inside the body tissues of mussels and other mollusks infected with toxoplasmosis and other parasitic infections.

Such experimental results, according to Shapiro, speak in favor of the fact that microplastics directly contribute to the spread of human and animal infections throughout the oceans.

This indicates the need to create new wastewater treatment systems that prevent such forms of garbage from entering the hydrosphere, the scientists concluded.

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