Lead author from the University of Bath's Milner Centre for Evolution and Department of Biology & Biochemistry, Dr Jaime Martinez-Urtaza explains:
"Through our findings we suggest that so-called vibrios - microscopic bacteria commonly found in seawater - can attach to larger organisms such as zooplankton to travel oceans. Numerous previous studies have shown how such vibrios bind to and use these larger organisms as a source of energy and through this mechanism, we suggest, they are essentially able to piggyback to travel such enormous diseases, driven by ocean currents."
"The effects of El Nino events and their impacts on local weather, fisheries and the risk of more extreme meteorological events are already well-documented. Now understanding the role the ocean currents are also playing in transporting these disease has huge significance for public health campaigns in those countries."
Co-author, Dr Craig Baker-Austin from the UK Cefas Weymouth laboratory added:
"An El Nino event could represent an efficient long-distance 'biological corridor', allowing the displacement of marine organisms from distant areas. This process could provide both a periodic and unique source of new pathogens into America with serious implications for the spread and control of disease."
The study involved scientists from the University of Bath (UK), the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Food and Drugs Administration and the UK CEFAS Weymouth Laboratory.
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