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CALIFORNIA – A new study found that disease-causing parasites can cling to plastic microfibres and potentially spread through the sea. The research team focused on the hitherto unexplored area of interaction between plastic and the pathogen pollution of coastal waters.

They investigated the association of the zoonotic protozoan parasites Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium parvum, and Giardia enterica with polyethylene microbeads and polyester microfibres. These pathogens were chosen because they have been recognised by the World Health Organization as underestimated causes of illness from shellfish consumption, and due to their persistence in the marine environment.

The study team found that the pathogens are capable of associating with microplastics in contaminated seawater, with more parasites adhering to microfibre surfaces compared with microbeads.

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