Manmade climate change is the main driver behind the unexpected emergence of a group of bacteria in northern Europe which can cause gastroenteritis, new research by a group of international experts shows.
The paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Sunday, provided some of the first firm evidence that the warming patterns of the Baltic Sea have coincided with the emergence of Vibrio infections in northern Europe.
Vibrios is a group of bacteria which usually grow in warm and tropical marine environments. The bacteria can cause various infections in humans, ranging from cholera to gastroenteritis-like symptoms from eating raw or undercooked shellfish or from exposure to seawater.
A team of scientists from institutions in Britain, Finland, Spain and the United States examined sea surface temperature records and satellite data, as well as statistics on Vibrio cases in the Baltic.
They found the number and distribution of cases in the Baltic Sea area was strongly linked to peaks in sea surface temperatures. Each year the temperature rose one degree, the number of vibrio cases rose almost 200 percent.
“The big apparent increases that we’ve seen in cases during heat wave years (..) tend to indicate that climate change is indeed driving infections,” Craig Baker-Austin at the UK-based Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, one of the authors of the study, told Reuters.