A new paper in Science has identified waterborne microorganisms as emerging pathogens, with one finding that some of them could potentially trigger the emergence of human infections.
The paper was co-authored by scientists at the University of Glasgow, the University College London and the University’s School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
“The study highlights a potential pathway by which the emergence and spread of novel pathogens may arise,” said Dr Robert Wainwright, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.
“It is unclear if the emergence will be driven by the spread of pathogens or other novel agents, but it could be the latter.”
The paper describes the discovery that the bacterium Prevotella ceratina has been found in a range of different environments.
“Prevotella is a species of bacteria found naturally in the oceans and the seas, where it has been associated with several pathogens, including salinity and temperature changes,” said Professor Tim Wilson, a researcher at the School of Biological Sciences at the Glasgow University.
“But it is also found in seawater where it is known to infect marine life, such as mussels, clams and oysters.”
“In fact, Prevotellaceae has been described as the most common cause of mortality in humans, and is one of the leading pathogens of human pathogens in the marine environment.”
The researchers found that Prevotlla ceratini was found in samples of marine sediment that were contaminated with a variety of other microbes.
“We observed the presence of Prevotilla ceratinus, a common type of bacteria, and other bacteria that are known to cause salinity-related infections in human tissues,” Dr Wilson said.
“Other organisms were found in the samples of seawater that were also contaminated with Prevotillaceae.”
“These organisms are not new pathogens, but are rather a new strain of Prevota bacteria, which are not very well characterized.”
“It appears that the presence and spread in seawaters of these bacteria are related to the presence in freshwater environments of bacteria that cause salinisation and can cause diarrhoea,” Dr Wainwrith said.
The findings show that there is a strong link between the presence or transmission of the bacteria in seaweed and its ability to infect human tissue.
“In the absence of any new pathogens we expect that Prevota ceratinina would be present in seaweeds and in other marine environments that are likely to harbour these organisms, such a water, marine or freshwater environment,” Professor Wilson said, adding that it is likely that these bacteria were already present in freshwater habitats around the world.
“These bacteria could potentially be transferred from freshwater environments into fresh water environments where the conditions are not suitable for transmission.”
“The potential transmission of these new pathogens is of course, a major concern as they have been found to be able to infect humans and potentially cause infections.
This raises the question of whether these new bacteria can be transmitted by seaweeds, or whether they could be transmitted in other ways.”
The study also looked at the role of different bacteria in Prevotila ceratinis life cycle.
“When the bacteria infect the host, it initiates a process in which it builds a new cell that forms a new host cell,” Dr Watson said.
This process is known as budding, and the process of cell division and differentiation is called metagenesis.
“After this process, the new host cells then divide and replicate, becoming a new colony of cells that then produce new organisms,” Professor Wainwyll said.
Professor Wains said the new findings are an important step towards understanding the microbial community that is living in seaworlds.
“This is the first time that we have found a bacterium that has been isolated and identified from seaweeds,” he said.