Seaweed contains flesh-eating bacteria
Most people were already aware of the 5,000-mile long sargassum bloom making its way toward Florida — and possibly Alabama — beaches, but thanks to a new study, there’s more to be concerned about than just the stench which accompanies the bloom.
Florida Atlantic University has released a study which found that sargassum bloom contains both the Vibrio bacteria and plastic marine debris, creating what the study’s authors called a “perfect pathogen storm” with significant health risks to both humans and marine life.
The Vibrio bacteria, frequently referred to as the “flesh-eating” bacteria, can cause life-threatening illnesses from seafood consumption, as well as disease and death from open wound infections, according to the report.
Not only can the Vibrio bacteria live within the sargassum, however, it also appears to be able to attach itself to plastic marine debris.
“Plastic is a new element that’s been introduced into marine environments and has only been around for about 50 years,” said Dr. Tracy Mincer, corresponding lead author and an assistant professor of biology at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College.
“Our lab work showed that these Vibrio are extremely aggressive and can seek out and stick to plastic within minutes,” Mincer said. “We also found that there are attachment factors that microbes use to stick to plastics, and it is the same kind of mechanism that pathogens use.”
The 5,000-mile wide, 11ton bloom — the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt — is expected to impact Florida’s eastern coast, with some of it making its way into the northern Gulf of Mexico. It’s the secondlargest sargassum bloom ever recorded, according to FAU researcher Brian LaPointe.
“It’s incredible,” LaPointe said in mid-March. “What we’re seeing in the satellite imagery does not bode well for a clean beach year.”