Global Warming Puts Shellfish—and Us—at Risk

50-year study shows correlation between rising water temperatures and increasing Vibrio infections
Pacific Oysters

Wikimedia Commons / GuidoCC BY-SA 2.0

Vibrio is genus of bacteria that can be fatal to people that eat infected shellfish or swim in infected ocean waters.

Eating oysters (and other shellfish) is more dangerous than ever, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Warming ocean waters resulting from climate change have not only been driving ocean species north but have led to an increased prevalence of the genus of bacteria called Vibrio, “which can cause fatal illness in people who eat shellfish or swim in ocean waters,” according to National Geographic.

Vibrio not only flourishes in warmer water but collects in shellfish, such as oysters, which filter water while feeding.

The increased prevalence of this bacteria was discovered through an analysis of the Continuous Plankton Reorder Survey, whose data was gathered from the North Atlantic over the span of 50 years.. Vibrio bacteria cling to plankton, and scientists identified and separated the DNA of the bacteria from its host.

The higher amounts of Vibrio in the samples was found to directly correlate with rising water temperatures and recorded increases in Vibrio infections in North America and Europe.

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