Colonisation of plastic pellets (nurdles) by E. coli at public bathing beaches


Rodrigues A, Oliver D, McCarron A & Quilliam R (2019) Colonisation of plastic pellets (nurdles) by E. coli at public bathing beaches. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 139, pp. 376-380.

The hard surface of waterborne plastic provides an ideal environment for the formation of biofilm by opportunistic microbial colonisers, and could facilitate a novel means of dispersal for microorganisms across coastal and marine environments. Biofilms that colonise the so-called 'plastisphere' could also be a reservoir for faecal indicator organisms (FIOs), such as Escherichia coli, or pathogenic bacteria such as species of Vibrio. Therefore, the aim of this study was to map the spatial distribution of beach-cast plastic resin pellets (nurdles) at five public bathing beaches, and quantify their colonisation by E. coli and Vibrio spp. Nurdles were heterogeneously distributed along the high tide mark at all five beaches, and each beach contained nurdles that were colonised by E. coli and Vibrio spp. Knowledge of E. coli colonisation and persistence on nurdles should now be used to inform coastal managers about the additional risks associated with plastic debris.

Bathing Water Directive; marine plastic debris; plastic pollution; plastisphere; public health;

Marine Pollution Bulletin: Volume 139

Publication date28/02/2019
Publication date online11/01/2019
Date accepted by journal06/01/2019