Dangerous hitchhikers? Evidence for potentially pathogenic Vibrio spp. on microplastic particles

The taxonomic composition of biofilms on marine microplastics is widely unknown. Recent sequencing results indicate that potentially pathogenic Vibrio spp. might be present on floating microplastics. Hence, these particles might function as vectors for the dispersal of pathogens. Microplastics and water samples collected in the North and Baltic Sea were subjected to selective enrichment for pathogenic Vibrio species. Bacterial colonies were isolated from CHROMagar™Vibrio and assigned to Vibrio spp. on the species level by MALDI-TOF MS (Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionisation – Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry). Respective polymers were identified by ATR FT-IR (Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform – Infrared Spectroscopy). We discovered potentially pathogenic Vibrio parahaemolyticus on a number of microplastic particles, e.g. polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene from North/Baltic Sea. This study confirms the indicated occurrence of potentially pathogenic bacteria on marine microplastics and highlights the urgent need for detailed biogeographical analyses of marine microplastics.

Inga V. Kirstein, Sidika Kirmizi, Antje Wichel, Alexa Garin-Fernandez, Rene Erler, Martin Löder, Gunnar Gerdts, Marine Environmental Research, Volume 120, September 2016, Pages 1–8

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