Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Warming Atlantic Ocean Leads to Rise in Marine Bacteria

Vibrio sampling areas in the North Atlantic. Each red rectangle indicates where samples were collected over the period 1958-2011. The inset image shows the CPR instrument. [Credit: Vezzulli et al. (2016)] Click to Enlarge.
Rising sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic are likely to be behind a recent surge in cases of diarrhoeal diseases from marine bacteria in northern Europe and the US east coast, a new study says.

In their analysis that goes back to 1958, the researchers show that levels of Vibrio bacteria – which can cause illness in humans and even death – have been increasing as sea surface temperatures rise.

Further ocean warming as a result of climate change could exacerbate this spread of marine bacteria, the researchers say, potentially bringing more human infections in future.

Marine bacteria
The most well-known Vibrio is cholera, a diarrhoeal disease that can cause severe dehydration and death if not treated.

This study considers other strains of Vibrio bacteria, such as Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which cause similar, though usually less severe, symptoms.  These types of illness are known collectively as “vibrosis”, which can lead to complications, such as blood poisoning.

Previous research has linked outbreaks of Vibrio infections around the world to warm sea surface temperatures.  Warmer conditions mean a longer summer window for Vibrio bacteria to grow and a greater chance of their survival.  This conclusion has been reached in studies of Chile, Peru, Israel and the Baltic states.

The new study, just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that a warming Atlantic Ocean is the main reason for an “unprecedented” number of Vibrio cases in North Atlantic countries in recent years.  This includes a spate of cases contracted by swimmers during the European summer heatwave in 2006.

Read more at Warming Atlantic Ocean Leads to Rise in Marine Bacteria

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