Microplastics hit the digestive system of seabirds
Tuesday – 6 Ramadan 1444 AH – March 28, 2023 AD
Seabirds on piles of plastic in Sweden (AFP)
Paris: «Asharq Al-Awsat»
Scientists have known for a long time that seabirds swallow microplastics because they think they are food, but what is new in a study published Monday is that the harm of this plastic waste is not limited to blocking the stomach, but also causes a disruption of the balance of the entire digestive system.
By studying the digestive tracts of two species of Atlantic seabird, Fulmarus glacialis and Puffinus, the researchers discovered that microplastics messed with their microbiomes, a complex collection of microorganisms, including good and bad bacteria.
The more microplastics a bird eats, the fewer infectious bacteria, which are often beneficial, while disease-causing agents multiply.
The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, also showed an increase in antibiotic-resistant microbes, revealing that certain types of microplastics can release chemicals that disrupt the gut microbiome of birds.
Microplastics derived from the decomposition of plastic products are found in the environment all over the world, from the deepest ocean trenches to the summit of Everest, and in most animal food chains. In humans, traces have been found in blood, women’s milk, and the placenta.
The study confirmed previous findings that prolonged intake of microplastics causes an imbalance between healthy and harmful bacteria in the digestive system.