A group of pathogenic marine bacteria, responsible for many more deaths worldwide each year than sharks, reside within Sydney Harbour, UTS scientists have found. The presence of pathogenic bacteria from the Vibrio genus within Sydney’s heavily used harbour suggests that it, and other vulnerable coastal ecosystems, may be at risk of future pathogen outbreaks, particularly under the spectre of environmental stress and changing climate.

Vibrio vulnificus/CDC
Vibrio vulnificus/CDC

Although not as conspicuous as charismatic marine animals and plants, bacteria play an important role in the function of marine habitats. Most species are harmless to humans and provide valuable ecosystem services. However, some species are pathogenic and can pose a significant threat to both marine organisms and human health.

This important study reveals the widespread occurrence of a key group of marine pathogens – bacteria from the Vibrio genus, a group of bacteria that includes the causative agent of cholera – within the Sydney Harbour estuary.

“We believe our observations are essential for predicting future risks and hotspots for pathogen outbreaks,” says lead author Dr Nachshon Siboni, a marine microbial marine ecologist in the Ocean Microbes and Healthy Oceans Research Program within the Climate Change Cluster (C3) at UTS.

Read more at Frontiers in Microbiology and UTS