Florida’s Dolphins at Risk of Superbugs Due to Human Activity
A study conducted on wild bottlenose dolphins in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon has revealed troubling findings: they are becoming susceptible to antibiotic resistant bacteria, leaving them vulnerable to superbugs that are becoming increasingly common and dangerous around the world.
Between 2003 and 2015, Adam Schaefer and his research team collected swab samples of dolphins’ blowholes, which revealed bacterial resistance to at least one antibiotic in 88% of the samples. Worse yet, the team found that the rates of resistance in two of the most common bacteria were significantly higher in 2010-2015 than in 2003-2007. These two common bacteria can cause serious infections, organ failure, and even death.
The Indian River Lagoon is a drainage basin for artificial canals located within close proximity to dense urban settlements. In this area, dolphins are being exposed to high volumes of certain antibiotics that are directly passed from human waste to waterways when flushed down toilets. This exposure leads to the development of antibiotic resistance in cetaceans.
Another huge source of antibiotics can be traced back to agriculture. Companies use vast amounts of antibiotics to combat bacterial infections on both crops and live animals. In factory farms and concentrated animal feeding operations, conditions are so chronically stressful for animals that a continuous onslaught of drugs is required to keep them alive.
Human impact on the Indian River Lagoon is undeniable. Consumption of animal products, the problems associated with monocropping, and the over-use of prescription antibiotics are to blame for threatening entire ecosystems. These threats must be addressed to ensure the survival of dolphins and the ocean ecosystems upon which everyone depends.
To learn more about the issues that cetaceans face, click here.