New bacteria discovered in UK waters as temperatures rise

Time series of sea surface temperature data [deg C] (in depth foundation, from OSTIA) from 2015-2018 in England and Wales. for 2015 (red dotted), 2016 (green dotted), 2017 (blue dotted) and 2018 (solid black dot). Credit: DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117942

New research shows that rising temperatures are causing an ‘increasing diversity’ of Vibrio bacteria in the sea around the UK.

The study, led by the University of Exeter, found two species of Vibrio – Vibrio rotiferianus and Vibrio jasicida – that had not previously been recorded in UK waters.

These species can harm marine creatures such as oysters, but the increasing range of Vibrio species also raises human health concerns.

Some Vibrio bacteria can cause gastroenteritis when eaten raw or undercooked shellfish, and the bacteria can also cause skin infections.

The researchers say the spread of Vibrio species has led to a “global increase” in the incidence of Vibrio in humans and aquatic animals.

Dr Sarika Wagley, from the University of Exeter, said: ‘Vibrio species are often found in UK waters in summer, when temperatures are most favorable to them.

“As sea surface temperatures rise due to climate change, Vibrio activity in water is becoming more common, and the diversity of Vibrio species is now increasing.”

The study used Met Office data to determine locations where summer sea surface temperatures were favorable for Vibrio bacteria (based on the average number of days in a year warmer than 18°C).

The researchers then analyzed oyster samples from four sites used by the oyster industry – Chichester Harbor, Osia Island, Whitstable Bay and Lime Bay.

“We found Vibrio parahaemolyticus – the leading cause of gastroenteritis transmitted by seafood worldwide – in the port of Chichester,” said Dr. Wagley.

Vibrio alginolyticus, which can also cause disease in humans, was identified at three of the sites where sea surface temperatures exceeded 18°C ​​(Chicester Harbor, Osia Island and Whitstable Bay).

“It is important to note that thorough cooking kills harmful Vibrio bacteria in seafood.

“However, the increased abundance and diversity of Vibrio bacteria creates health risks not only for people who eat seafood, but also for those who use the sea for recreational purposes – either from ingestion of infected seawater or from entry of the bacteria into cuts or open wounds.”

“Vibrio bacteria also pose a threat to a variety of marine species including the shellfish themselves. Disease costs the global aquaculture industry £6 billion annually, and this disease burden can be devastating.

“We haven’t seen a mass death of oysters due to Vibrio bacteria here in the UK yet, but that has happened elsewhere – including in France and Australia.”

Dr Wagley added: “Our findings support the hypothesis that Vibrio-associated diseases are increasing and affected by rising sea surface temperature.

“We need to monitor this situation closely, to protect human health, marine biodiversity and the seafood industry.”

Dr Joanne Preston, from the University of Portsmouth, said: “It is important to monitor the impact of increased sea surface temperature on potential shellfish pathogens, not only for human health and safety, but also to understand the resilience of coastal and habitat species to climate change.”

Dr Luke Helmer, from the Blue Marine Foundation and the University of Portsmouth, added: “The impacts of climate change on the marine environment are likely to be extensive.

“Understanding how these changes affect ecologically and commercially important species and the people who depend on them will be critical going forward, in order to mitigate their effects.”

The study – which was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) – was supported by the Chichester and Havant Council and the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.

The paper published in the magazine water research, entitled: “Increasing spread of Vibrio species and first reporting of Vibrio jasicida and Vibrio rotiferianus in oyster sites in the United Kingdom”.

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more information:
Jamie Harrison et al, Increased prevalence of Vibrio species and first reporting of Vibrio jasicida and Vibrio rotiferianus in oyster sites in the United Kingdom, water research (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.watres.2021.117942

Presented by the University of Exeter

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