Bacterial biofilms colonizing plastics in estuarine waters, with an emphasis on Vibrio spp. and their antibacterial resistance

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From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 15, Issue 8)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Report
Length: 9,701 words
Lexile Measure: 1390L

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Author(s): Amanda L. Laverty 1,*, Sebastian Primpke 2, Claudia Lorenz 2, Gunnar Gerdts 2, Fred C. Dobbs 1


Plastic pollution is omnipresent in marine and estuarine environments, including all coastal areas and remote beaches [1,2], throughout the open ocean and water column [3], trapped in sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic [4,5], and on the sea floor [6,7]. One estimate of plastic standing stock in surface waters of the world's oceans is, at a minimum, 5.25 trillion plastic particles with a mass of 268,940 tons [3]. This standing stock estimate represents only 0.01-0.1% of the plastic believed to have entered the marine environment annually.

Colonization of marine plastic debris was first documented in the 1970s, when diatoms and other microbes were found on plastics in the Sargasso Sea [8] and other areas in the North Atlantic Ocean [9]. Not until more recently, however, has plastic been more vigorously examined as a habitat for aquatic microbial communities [10-13]. Plastics remain in the environment on drastically longer timescales than most natural organic substrates. These long-lasting, durable, often buoyant, physically and chemically distinct substrates thus provide a novel habitat for the colonization and possible dissemination of microbial communities, including bacteria that are human pathogens [14,15].

Zettler et al. (2013) showed a high diversity of heterotrophs, autotrophs, predators, and pathogens living in the 'Plastisphere', the term they coined to encompass the environment in, on, and immediately surrounding a plastic piece in the marine environment [14]. Their studies showed 'Plastisphere' communities differed from those in surrounding seawater [14] and suggested these communities also differ latitudinally and between ocean basins [16]. Additionally, in one sample of polypropylene, they found a member of the bacterial genus Vibrio to be a dominant component of the community, suggesting that plastic might serve as a 'vector' of pathogens and infectious diseases [14]. Since then, other studies have confirmed the presence of Vibrio , as well as other potentially pathogenic bacteria and harmful algae, on marine plastics [13,15,17].

Vibrio is a ubiquitous bacterial genus with wide-ranging and variable habitat preferences, encompassing both host-associated and free-living representatives: multicellular marine hosts, ambient aquatic environments, natural organic substrates, phytoplankton blooms, and now plastic particles [18]. The genus includes human and animal pathogens that have caused major pandemics and countless epidemics across the globe. These pathogens can also inflict expensive losses on aquaculture enterprises. Given their impact on human and animal health and the relative ease of their culture, vibrios have been well studied [18,19]. In this regard, different species of Vibrio form cohesive groups within which they easily exchange genetic elements to confer greater antibiotic resistance, as well as regulate virulence [20]. The concern with plastic serving as a vector of pathogenic organisms may well be compounded by the potential for dissemination of antibiotic-resistance genes associated with "Plastisphere" biofilm communities.

Here we report plastic (low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP), polycarbonate (PC), and polystyrene (PS)) and glass, hung from a floating dock, and microplastics, collected from the environment, as colonization...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A632758944