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‘Critical’ questions over disease risks from ocean plastics

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Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain Key knowledge gaps exist in our understanding of how ocean microplastics transport bacteria and viruses—and whether this affects the health of humans and animals, researchers say.

With millions of tons of plastic reaching the world’s oceans every year—and trillions of particles floating on the surface—the potential impacts of plastic pollution are vast.

Plastic particles are known to carry specific combinations of metals, pollutants and pathogens (bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that can cause disease).

But the new study, by the University of Exeter and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), says critical questions remain about the role of microplastics in carrying pathogens, and possible threats to food production and safety.

The paper focusses on aquaculture (seafood farming), which is expected to play a vital role in feeding the world’s growing population, and already faces challenges due to diseases.

“Microplastic fragments differ markedly from natural floating particles, and there is growing evidence that they represent a potential reservoir of pathogens,” said Dr. Ceri Lewis, of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute.”Of particular concern are the increasing reports of the presence of numerous pathogens on plastic surfaces in oceans around the world.”One study found antimicrobial-resistant bacteria at concentrations 100-5,000 times higher […]

read more here —> phys.org

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