Scientists Find Pathogens Hitchhiking On Plastics ‘Could Carry Cholera From India To US’

Source: The Guardian/Karen McVeigh

Photo: Brian Yurasits

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Dangerous sewage pathogens have been found “hitch-hiking” on plastic litter washed up on some of Scotland’s finest bathing beaches, raising concerns from scientists the phenomenon could have far-reaching implications for human health worldwide.

The findings, by the University of Stirling, have confirmed environmentalists’ fears that ubiquitous, persistent and tiny plastic beads, or “nurdles”, found on beaches and in rivers and seas around the world, act as rafts for harmful bacteria, transporting them from sewage outfalls and agricultural runoff to bathing waters and shellfish beds.

The findings raise the potential for “cholera in India to be transported and washed up on a shore in the USA”, according to Dr Richard Quilliam, the study’s principal investigator.

“The danger is that pathogens could be transported over large distances and survive for much longer than normal,” Quilliam said.

“When a pathogen is bound to a piece of plastic it’s going to be protected, as it can hide from things that normally kill it, like UV light.

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Photo: Brian Yurasits