Swinscoe I, Oliver DM, Gilburn AS & Quilliam RS (2018) The seaweed fly (Coelopidae) can facilitate environmental survival and transmission of E. coli O157 at sandy beaches. Journal of Environmental Management, 223, pp. 275-285. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.06.045
The sustainable management of recreational beaches is essential for minimising risk of human exposure to microbial pathogens whilst simultaneously maintaining valuable ecosystem services. Decaying seaweed on public beaches is gaining recognition as a substrate for microbial contamination, and is a potentially significant reservoir for human pathogens in close proximity to beach users. Closely associated with beds of decaying seaweed are dense populations of the seaweed fly (Coelopidae), which could influence the spatio-temporal fate of seaweed-associated human pathogens within beach environments. Replicated mesocosms containing seaweed inoculated with a bioluminescent strain of the zoonotic pathogen E. coli O157:H7, were used to determine the effects of two seaweed flies, Coelopa frigida and C. pilipes, on E. coli O157:H7 survival dynamics. Multiple generations of seaweed flies and their larvae significantly enhanced persistence of E. coli O157:H7 in simulated wrack habitats, demonstrating that both female and male C. frigida flies are capable of transferring E. coli O157:H7 between individual wrack beds and into the sand. Adult fly faeces can contain significant concentrations of E. coli O157:H7, which suggests they are capable of acting as biological vectors and bridge hosts between wrack habitats and other seaweed fly populations, and facilitate the persistence and dispersal of E. coli O157:H7 in sandy beach environments. This study provides the first evidence that seaweed fly populations inhabiting natural wrack beds contaminated with the human pathogen E. coli O157:H7 have the capacity to amplify the hazard source, and therefore potential transmission risk, to beach users exposed to seaweed and sand in the intertidal zone. The risk to public health from seaweed flies and decaying wrack beds is usually limited by human avoidance behaviour; however, seaweed fly migration and nuisance inland plagues in urban areas could increase human exposure routes beyond the beach environment.
Environmental Engineering; Waste Management and Disposal; Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law; General Medicine
Journal of Environmental Management: Volume 223