Metcalf R, White HL, Moresco V, Ormsby MJ, Oliver DM & Quilliam RS (2022) Sewage-associated plastic waste washed up on beaches can act as a reservoir for faecal bacteria, potential human pathogens, and genes for antimicrobial resistance. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 180, Art. No.: 113766. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2022.113766
Sewage-associated plastic wastes, such as wet wipes and cotton bud sticks, commonly wash up on beaches; however, it is unclear whether this represents a public health risk. In this study, sewage-associated plastic waste, and naturally occurring substrates (seaweed and sand), were collected from ten beaches along the Firth of Forth estuary (Scotland, UK) and analysed using selective media for the faecal indicator organisms (FIOs) E. coli and intestinal enterococci (IE), and potential human pathogens (Vibrio spp.). Minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) analysis was used to determine antibiotic resistance in selected strains. FIOs and Vibrio were more often associated with wet wipes and cotton bud sticks than with seaweed, and there was evidence of resistance to several antibiotics. This work demonstrates that plastics associated with sewage pollution can facilitate the survival and dissemination of FIOs and Vibrio and thus, could present an as yet unquantified potential risk to human health at the beach.
Beach pollution; Environmental pathogens; Plastic pollution; Plastisphere; Sewage discharge; Wet wipes
Marine Pollution Bulletin: Volume 180