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Ocean Micro Plastics and Parasites8 min read

Micro Plastics are becoming more of a ocean problem according to researchers

Ocean micro plastics and parasites
Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Ocean micro plastics are everywhere, from here to the waters off Antarctica. Some scientists are worried about these plastic particles because they may focus on unpleasant ocean parasites, with serious consequences. According to veterinarian Karen Shapiro, these microplastics can accumulate in naturally occurring ocean films.

In the meantime, the public should start a public awareness campaign to help protect marine life from these harmful pollutants.

Microplastics

Micro-plastics are the most common environmental pollutants, but there are also some potentially harmful ones. Micro-plastics are often the talk of climate issues and recent research has linked these contamination’s to a range of areas. This subject is particularly worrisome, as they can cause lifelong illnesses and even place marine animals at huge risk.

One recent study looked at the associations between ocean micro plastics and the presence of parasites. The researchers found that some parasites associated with micro plastics tended to increase over time, while parasite counts in the seawater decreased over a seven-day period. Parasite counts of C. parvum, T. gondii, and G. enterica associated with microbeads increased significantly over the testing period.

However, parasite counts of T. gondii were reduced over the same period.

Pathogens

A study published in Environmental Research Letters suggests a connection between parasites in the ocean and micro plastics in the sea. Parasites from feces and animal waste stick to micro plastics. This leads to a significant concentration of parasites on plastic surfaces. Researchers tested this relationship by placing it in seawater for 14 days. Over this time, it accumulated a layer of sticky material called a “plastisphere.” These particles act as a blanket for parasites.

The researchers mixed seawater, micro plastics, and parasites in a laboratory. They found that two parasites, enteric giardia and Cryptosporidium parvum, were present. Believing that if it was ingested, these parasites could cause diarrhea, dehydration, and vomiting. These parasites would then be diluted in large ocean water bodies. The researchers believe this connection is one of many that may help us protect our environment.

Ingestion

Ingestion of micro plastics and parasites from the ocean could obviously be bad. Parasites can hitchhike on micro plastics to reach remote areas, including Antarctica. Researchers tested the association between pathomicro plasticsoplastics in seawater. They found that both types are carriers of land parasites.

Micro-plastics carry a complex mix of chemicals and other contaminants.

Many plastics Leach chemicals into the surrounding seawater or sediment. Once these substances reach the ocean, they concentrate in the benthos environment, near the bottom of the ocean, where they become more concentrated. This area is inhabited by animals that feed on filter-feeding micro plastics, such as jellyfish. These creatures, in turn, inhale the chemicals and parasites in the micro plastics, which may cause them to become ill.

Fish

Another study finds that the presence of micro-plastics in the ocean is associated with a greater incidence of parasites. In addition to the micro plastics themselves, selected parasites also associate with microbeads. The parasite counts associated with microbeads increased significantly over the seven-day study period. By contrast, parasite counts associated with seawater and other organisms decreased significantly.

These findings suggest that micro plastics and pathogens from land can associate with each other in the ocean, which may have significant implications for wildlife. In fact, micro plastics make it easier for disease-causing organisms to concentrate and multiply in marine environments. While this is not conclusive, the association between it and pathogens is significant as it could have important ramifications.

Cat feces

Microplastics in the ocean may be ferrying pathogens out into the deep blue sea. These tiny plastics can carry parasites and others to new habitats. One of these parasites, T. gondii, has been found in cat feces and has already infected many species of sea creatures. The disease it causes, toxoplasmosis, is lifelong.

In addition to toxoplasmosis, the parasite giardia causes gastrointestinal diseases and is responsible for the demise of sea otters. The other two parasites, cryptosporidium and giardia, cause gastrointestinal disorders. Researchers are working to find out if cat feces could be a major contributor to the occurrence of these parasites in the ocean.

Ingestion by seabirds

Ingestion of ocean micro plastics by marine birds has a range of consequences. Ingested plastic items range in size from 0.5 to 51.5 mm and can reach lengths of 11.3 cm or more. In some cases, they can even resemble food. Some seabirds have been found to ingest copper wire and glass shards. But while they may look like food, they are actually harboring parasites and toxic chemicals.

There are two primary modes of marine debris’s impact on marine fauna: entanglement and ingestion. Ingestion affects both marine mammals and birds. Studies have shown that 60% of cetacean species are entangled in marine debris. Ingestion of plastic by seabirds has doubled in the last two decades. And because these birds are near the top of the marine food web, they are very vulnerable to pollution and over-fishing. Moreover, a study conducted in 2016 revealed that seabirds are particularly vulnerable to ocean pollution because they rely on marine resources.

Ingestion by fish

micro plastics
Photo by Muhammad Numan on Unsplash

Ingestion of ocean micro plastics is a major concern for marine organisms. They may cause internal damage to marine animals, including inflammation in their intestines, and reduced feeding. Some of these micro plastics may also contain additives, including flame retardants and colorants, which can harm fish. Furthermore, pollutants in the ocean may also attach to micro plastics, which are ingested by marine animals.

The ingestion rate of marine animals varies with the size and weight of the individual. Some species of birds, such as Spheniscus penguins, have low rates of ingestion of ocean plastic debris. However, larger animals, like whales and dolphins, can ingest large amounts of ocean micro plastics. Furthermore, sharks can be vulnerable to ingestion of micro plastics in their stomachs as well.

Toxoplasma gondii

A recent study examined the association between the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) and micro plastics in the ocean. The parasite was more likely to be present in micro plastics than in seawater, and counts of the parasite on each sample decreased as time passed. Interestingly, the parasite counts on micro plastics decreased while those on seawater did not.

The study used a dye called Alcian blue to visualize the association between the plastic surface and the parasite oocysts. The dye binds to exopolymer substances in biofilms, allowing researchers to visualize the association between plastic surface and parasite oocysts. Microfibers and 100-mm blue polyethylene microbeads were not preconditioned in the seawater. They were then photographed under brightfield illumination with Alcian blue.

Cryptosporidium

Recent research has also highlighted the link between cryptosporidium and ocean micro plastics. The parasite lives in untreated water and affects aquatic life, including sea turtles and fish. These micro plastics have been used in cosmetics, clothing, and fishing nets. Which are considered the leading cause of ocean-related diseases. Despite their detrimental effects, they remain an important source of pollution.

The World Health Organization recently recognized pathogens in shellfish as under-recognized. Because these pathogens persist in the marine environment, the presence of micro plastics may help them concentrate and multiply. Various species of cryptosporidium are found in shellfish, and the WHO considers them among the most overlooked causes.

Giardia

Using the study as a case study, scientists mixed seawater and a variety of micro plastics with different parasites, including Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium parvum, and Giardia enterica. These pathogens were found to attach to the micro plastics, resulting in concentrations that were higher than what they would be in seawater. The study also showed that the parasites can be found on plastics containing a number of microbeads, which are common in clothing.

The researchers from UC Davis conducted a series of laboratory experiments to study how this interacted with microplastics in the sea. The findings showed that a significant number of them attached to micro plastics in the laboratory. Additionally, microfibers transported pathogens more effectively than microbeads. As micro plastic particles travel across the ocean and spread in the sea, they can potentially be passed along with them to animals, which feed on them.

For more info on this subject check out this video

Provided by Antonio Westley


Disclaimer: This article is meant to be seen as an overview of this subject and not a reflection of viewpoints or opinions as nothing is definitive. So, make sure to do your research and feel free to use this information at your own discretion.



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