Northern Europe has recently experienced a spike in gastroenteritis and a study published in the journal Nature claims the bacteria responsible for the disease has been increasing because of man-made climate change which has heated up water in the world’s oceans.
According to scientists warming patterns of the Baltic Sea have directly coincided with the emergence of Vibrio infections in northern Europe.
Vibrios are a group of bacteria that typically exist in warm and tropical marine environments. When transferred to humans the group of bacteria can cause gastroenteritis and cholera-like symptoms. The bacteria are transferred when someone eats raw or undercooked shellfish or when they are exposed to seawater.
The published study was conducted by scientists from Britain, Finland, Spain and the United States. The group examined sea surfaced temperature records and satellite data.
Research has shown that global average surface temperatures have increased by 0.17 degrees Celsius from 1980 through 2010. The study found that the Vibrio study focused on the Baltic Sea saw an increase from 0.063 to 0.078 degrees Celsius a year from 1982 to 2010, an increase of 6.3 to 7.8 degree per century.
According to the paper:
“(It) represents, to our knowledge, the fastest warming marine ecosystem examined so far anywhere on Earth.”R
Researchers also note that the bacteria can also increase because of heavier rainfall which reduces salt content of estuaries and coastal wetlands.
The study states that other outbreaks have also occurred in Israel, Peru and Chile and parts of the northwest U.S. Pacific.
Even with the increase in cases the chances of getting a vibrio infection is still considered relatively low and researchers admit that more research is needed to determine which areas are most affected by vibrio contamination.