Vibrio vulnificus, the infamous flesh-eating water-borne bacteria that can enter a person’s body through a cut or wound, is pretty nasty stuff, as a Texas fisherman who recently contracted it could attest. Vibrio — which also can cause severe diarrhea, often accompanied by abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills — usually hangs out in salt water in warm climates such as the Gulf Coast.
But now, scientists from Germany’s Alfred-Wegener Institute are afraid that with waters in the North and Baltic seas warming due to climate change, the flesh-eating bacteria will migrate northward.
Worse yet, the German researchers have discovered that the dangerous pathogen may be able to hitch a ride for thousands of miles on particles of microplastic. The latter are tiny fragments of plastic refuse that make their way into the world’s oceans, where they’re a growing environmental menace.
“This illustrates the potential of pathogens hitchhiking on these particles, i.e. disseminating as free loaders within an ecosystem and proliferating beyond,” microbiologist Gunnar Gerdts explained in a press release.
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