Bacterial Infection Linked To Climate Change
An outbreak of gastroenteritis Northern Europe is being caused by manmade climate change, according to a new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers said the warming of the Baltic Sea is offering the bacteria vibrio to thrive -- the first evidence of manmade climate change coinciding with the emergence of a bacterial infection.
Vibrios is a group of bacteria that typically grows in warm and tropical environments. It can cause a variety of illnesses in humans, ranging from gastroenteritis to cholera, according to the study.
Like Us on Facebook
Researchers found that the number of infections from vibrio peaks with higher sea surface temperatures. Every year the sea surface temperature rose 1 degree, the number of vibrio infections rose nearly 200 percent.
"The big apparent increases that we've seen in cases during heatwave years tend to indicate that climate change is indeed driving infections," Craig Baker-Austin, study coauthor and researcher at the UK-based Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, told Reuters.
The Baltic Sea is an ideal place to study the effects of climate change on bacteria because its warming at a faster rate than almost anywhere else on the planet. Studies show the average rise in surface temperatures to be .17 degrees Celsius every decade between 1980 and 2010. However, the Baltic Sea increased approximately 6.3 degrees every decade over that same span.
"(It) represents, to our knowledge, the fastest warming marine ecosystem examined so far anywhere on Earth," researchers wrote in the study.
While becoming infection with vibrio is still uncommon, if climate change continues, the risk becomes exponentially greater, researchers said.
"Certainly the chances of getting a vibrio infection are considered to be relatively low, and more research is focused on areas where these diseases are endemic or at least more common," Baker-Austin said.
Vibrio has also appeared in Chile, Peru, Israel, the northwest U.S. Pacific and northwest Spain - places that are all warming rapidly, researchers said.
© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.