Seagrasses That Protect Humans From Deadly Bacteria In Rapid Decline

By Donna Bellevue , Feb 17, 2017 02:33 AM EST

Idyllic meadows of seagrasses have been found to effectively reduce levels of potentially deadly bacteria in the sea. According to scientists, they prevent humans from getting diseases like dysentery and typhoid. However, a study reveals that a dramatic decline of these underwater antibiotics is occurring globally.

Professor Drew Harvell of Cornell University says that in the process of a scientific investigation of the health of corals in the coastal area, his entire research team fell ill with dysentery, and one scientist even got typhoid. “I experienced firsthand how threats to both human health and coral health were linked,” he said. He adds that while the beautiful oceanside water looked blue-green, in reality, it was filled with dangerous pollution, and noticeably without seagrasses.

The team studied a sample of the shore water, placing it under genetic sequencing process. The result pinpointed the kinds of harmful bacteria that were in the water. Interestingly, the water test revealed that it contained 10 times the level of one type of bacteria, called Enterococcus, that is considered safe. The result was further linked with bacterial problems of coral, upon which much of marine life and ecosystem depend, the Science News reports.

The antibacterial effect of underwater meadows have already been published, but the findings of the new study by Professor Harvell and his team reveal that the heavily populated islands in the Indonesian archipelago is suffering from high bacterial infestation. The amount of bacteria was about half the levels found in places with no seagrass, the Independent reports.

Another research team led by Dr Joleah Lamb, also of Cornell University, investigates further and writes in the journal Science that when seagrass meadows are present, there was a 50 percent reduction in the disease-causing bacterial pathogens. However, Dr. Lamb warns that the meadows themselves were in sharp decline. She stresses that the main goal now should be to start saving the seagrasses by initiating efforts to support their habitat, just like New York City's decision to buy and restore a wetland area instead of building an $8 billion water treatment plant.

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