'High amounts' of flesh-eating bacteria and ocean plastics create 'perfect pathogen storm' in Florida seaweed

Remember the stinky, 5,000 mile-wide blob of brown seaweed headed to Florida that was so large, it measured twice the width of the U.S. and could be seen from space? Well, a lot of it has settled on the coast of Southern Florida, and researchers from the Florida Atlantic University have since found that when this ever-growing Sargassum bloom mixes with both the ocean's omnipresent micro-plastic debris and thriving Vibrio — aka flesh-eating — bacteria, a "perfect 'pathogen' storm" is born.

From NBC6:

Cultivation-based data from FAU shows that beached Sargassum appears to harbor high amounts of Vibriobacteria. …

Vibrio vulnificus is a flesh-eating bacteria that can cause life-threatening illness from seafood consumption, as well as contact to open wounds.

Because the rare, naturally-occurring bacteria thrive in warm brackish seawater, according to the Florida Health Department, people with open wounds can easily become exposed through direct contact.

Florida saw an increase in Vibrio cases throughout 2022, driven largely by a surge in the county hit hardest by Hurricane Ian.

And from FAU:

A new study uncovers how the interplay between Sargassum spp., plastic marine debris and Vibrio bacteria creates the perfect "pathogen" storm that has implications for both marine life and public health. Vibrio bacteria are found in waters around the world and are the dominant cause of death in humans from the marine environment. For example, Vibrio vulnificus, one of more than 100 species of Vibrio, sometimes referred to as flesh-eating bacteria, can cause life-threatening foodborne illnesses from seafood consumption as well as disease and death from open wound infections. …

Findings show some Vibrio spp. in this environment have an 'omnivorous' lifestyle targeting both plant and animal hosts in combination with an ability to persist in oligotrophic conditions. With increased human-Sargassum-plastic marine debris interactions, associated microbial flora of these substrates could harbor potent opportunistic pathogens. Importantly, some cultivation-based data show beached Sargassum appear to harbor high amounts of Vibrio bacteria.

"I don't think at this point, anyone has really considered these microbes and their capability to cause infections," said Mincer. "We really want to make the public aware of these associated risks. In particular, caution should be exercised regarding the harvest and processing of Sargassum biomass until the risks are explored more thoroughly."

While the flesh-eating bacteria thrives in warmer waters, Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis politicizes climate change, pretending it doesn't exist. Perhaps in his Q-injected MAGA world, neither does the seaweed.