Wednesday April 27, 2022

Oceanographic Magazine

Microplastics can be found everywhere, from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains. They were recently found in human blood for the first time too. But a research team has now established that microplastics can harbour parasites as well, posing a serious risk to marine animals, public health and ecosystems.

A new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, has found that parasites from land can hitch a ride on microplastics, giving germs the opportunity to travel to distant coastlines or the deep sea.

Parasites are known to accumulate in naturally occuring biofilms that cover surfaces in the ocean. An example of this phenomenon could be found at a dock structure on a beach. Below the surface, this structure would be covered in a sticky biofilm that is home to living organisms such as parasites. Without these biofilms, parasites would be diluted in the large water mass of the ocean.

The team of scientists behind the study wanted to find out whether this phenomenon would also occur on microplastics. Not only could parasites travel quickly around the globe if this was proven true, but it could also have human health implications. Oysters, for example, are known to ingest microplastics and if humans eat these oysters, parasites could also end up in the digestive system of humans.

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