Saturday, October 1, 2022

Microplastics in water can carry viruses, but should we worry?

person in water with swim ringshare on pinterest
A new study shows that viruses remain stable when attached to waterborne microplastics. Image credit: Ole Spata / EyeEm / Getty Images.
  • The researchers examined the stability of the virus over time when suspended in water containing microplastics.
  • They found that viruses can bind to microplastics and remain more stable than water alone.
  • They note that further research is needed to understand how long pathogens can survive by binding to microplastics.

Microplastics are plastic particles less than 5 millimeters (mm) in size. Once in the environment, they are quickly colonized by microorganisms.

previous Research suggests that human and animal pathogens may be able to “hitchhike” on microplastics and thus spread to different areas.

Although wastewater treatment plants remove up to 99% of microplastics from sewage water, sewage water is one of the main sources by which microplastics enter the environment.

This presents a risk for pathogens from human waste to attach to bacterial colonies known as biofilms on plastics.

Knowing whether pathogens sitting in microplastic biofilms remain infectious could aid public health initiatives.

Recently, researchers assessed the stability of the virus when submerged in water containing microplastics.

They found that viruses associated with microplastic biofilms were more stable than those in water alone.

appears in the study environmental pollution,

For the study, researchers tested two types of viruses. One, a bacteriophage – the bacteria-eating virus – known as Phi6 had an “envelope” or lipid coat around it, similar to that of the flu virus, while the other – rotavirus strain SA11 (RV) – was “non-enveloped”. ” was.

To start, the researchers inserted biofilms on 2 mm polyethylene microplastic pellets into filtered lake water, unfiltered lake water, or nutrient-rich water for 7–14 days to stimulate microbial growth.

Biofilms formed on all three water treatments, although they formed more rapidly between pellets from a nutrient-based water source.

The biofilm-coated pellets were then added to flasks containing 100 ml (ml) of fresh lake water and 1 ml of either Phi6 or rotavirus SA11 at specific concentrations for the wastewater samples.

To track the number of virus particles, the researchers extracted microplastic samples and 1 ml of water over 3 hours, 24 hours and 48 hours.

After analyzing the samples, the researchers noted that both Phi6 and RV particles formed on the microplastic.

While virus stability declined over time, virus inactivation was lower in biofilm-colonized pellets than in water samples.

They also noted that the RV virus remained more stable than the Phi6 virus. This, they noted, shows how interactions between non-enveloped viruses and bacterial cell wall components can enhance their infectivity and thermostability.

Dr. Nicolas Stasuli, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of New Haven, explained not being involved in the study. medical news todayWhen asked how viruses can survive while coaxing microplastics in freshwater:

“As the authors note, much of the ability to ‘hitchhike’ on microplastics is due to the layer of biofilm that is formed by the bacteria on the microplastics. Once the bacteria attach to and adhere to the microplastic surface So they can recruit more bacteria through the production of biofilms, which act like a biological glue that can help keep bacteria in close association with each other.

“During this process, other small things in the surrounding area – such as viruses or chemical compounds – can also attach to this biofilm. It is widely known that the biofilm is a collection of bacteria surrounded by factors such as antibiotics and adverse environmental changes. So it may be that the viruses attached to this biofilm are given the same type of protection from environmental changes that can inactivate them,” he added.

The study’s authors conclude that microplastic pollution is a possible route for viral spread and persistence in the environment.

When asked about the limitations of the study, Dr Saif Uddin, senior researcher at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, said that he did not participate in the study. MNT that the researchers did not adequately account for bioaerosols,

He said efforts to avoid cross-contamination are important because the highest microbial load is transferred from outside air to microplastics.

He said the researchers also did not examine biofilms on dust or sand particles, which take less time to form on these materials than on plastics.

In addition, Dr. Stasulli said that these are preliminary findings, and further study is needed. They said that “[m]Ore studies on a variety of viral human pathogens will of course be conducted which will include variables such as the route of infection and the infectious dose.

“The combination of future information on viral infectious dose and route of microplastic ingestion, together with the variables discussed in this novel study, will help to definitively establish the effect that biofilm-coated microplastics have on human health.” could,” he continued.

Dr. Stasulli said that such research is important for public health: “[As] They are microscopic, these microplastic particles contaminated with human pathogens are easily ingested or inhaled by humans. The increased viability time on surfaces that can easily enter the human body only increases the potential infection rate from these pathogens.”

However, Dr. Uddin pointed out that the risk of virus infection from microplastics is low compared to other routes of transmission, as water generally has low microplastic concentrations.

To put this in perspective, he notes that microplastic levels in water are typically between 1-10 parts per cubic meter. Meanwhile, phytoplankton, suspended particulates and zooplankton levels range from 1,000–100,000 per cubic metre.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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