Microplastics should not simply tiny particles that may be ingested, they will additionally carry viruses, a College of Queensland examine has revealed.

The examine, led by Affiliate Prof Jianhua Guo and Dr Ji Lu from UQ’s Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology (ACWEB), investigated if microplastics have the power to harbor viruses, together with the one discovered inside E. coli micro organism.

We regularly hear concerning the human and environmental hurt brought on by microplastics in water, however there may be little identified about whether or not the tiny microplastic particles can carry viruses.”

Jianhua Guo, Affiliate Professor, Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology, College of Queensland

“What we discovered is that viruses can hitchhike on microplastics and delay their infectivity, which suggests there might be an elevated threat of virus transmission all through waterways and the surroundings.”

Dr Lu stated they used the E. coli bacteriophage within the examine, which is a virus that infects and replicates throughout the micro organism itself and isn’t dangerous to people.

“By testing polystyrene particles of various sizes, we discovered that greater than 98 per cent of the virus we used was discovered on the microplastic, and over half of the viruses may nonetheless be detected 10 days later – for much longer than if the virus particles had been free-floating within the water,” Dr Lu stated.

The crew additionally examined how solar publicity and the dimensions of microplastics helped delay the virus’s survival and located the extra environmental injury on the microplastic, the extra probably it was to hold viruses.

“The virus-carrying microplastics might be a giant problem,” Dr Lu stated.

“The required dosage to be infectious to people varies between various kinds of viruses, however there might be cases the place the dosage is sufficient on a microplastic to trigger potential an infection.

“As a result of microplastics can doubtlessly accumulate lethal viruses and journey by way of waterways, it may be dangerous to eat seafoods harvested from areas the place they’re steadily contaminated by microplastics.”

Dr Lu stated the examine began when wastewater was being examined to detect COVID-19 instances locally, which spurred the crew’s investigation into what may mediate virus transmission in water environments.

“Our findings additionally indicated that microplastics may have an effect on how viruses are distributed in water, which might be of curiosity in future research,” Dr Lu stated.

“Our findings have opened the door to additional analysis that’s wanted on this space, together with to check if different pathogens can hitchhike on extra kinds of microplastics.

“The truth that viruses and microplastics can work together with one another might be problematic for human well being, however extra analysis must be performed to research these impacts additional.”


Journal reference:

Lu, J., et al. (2022) Microplastics as potential carriers of viruses may delay virus survival and infectivity. Water Analysis. doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2022.119115.

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