Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Combination of Gulf oil and dispersant spell potential trouble for gut microbes

23.10.2012
A study to be published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, on Tuesday, October 23, examined whether crude oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the dispersant used on it, or a combination of the two might affect the microbes of the human digestive tract.

The researchers found that although high concentrations of oil combined with dispersant are detrimental to these helpful microbial communities, the low to undetectable concentrations typically found in Gulf shellfish had no discernable effect.

"The oil and the dispersant were not hazardous or toxic to the bacteria [at the tested concentrations], but when you combined them and increased the concentrations, you got a dose-response effect," says Carl Cerniglia of the National Center for Toxicological Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (NCTR, FDA), a senior author on the study.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill released roughly 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the northern Gulf of Mexico in the spring and summer of 2010. To accelerate dispersion and enhance breakdown of the oil by microorganisms, 1.5 million gallons of the dispersant COREXIT 9500 were sprayed on the surface of the spill and applied at the underwater source of the leak. Concerns were soon raised about the safety of that dispersant for wildlife, plants, and humans alike. Oysters, shrimp, and other delicacies could well bioaccumulate oil or dispersant in their tissues, so eating contaminated shellfish presents one possible route by which humans could be exposed.

Although studies of the toxicity of crude oil and COREXIT 9500 to the human body have been carried out, science has not explored whether the dispersant or a mixture of oil and dispersant could have an impact on the microorganisms that line our intestinal tracts and aid in digestion, enhance immunity, and manufacture essential vitamins that the body absorbs.

Cerniglia and his colleagues combined human fecal samples, which are loaded with the microorganisms that reside in the intestines, with varying quantities of Deepwater Horizon crude oil and the dispersant, and then tested the samples to see how the microorganisms fared.

The crude oil and dispersant together had a greater toxic effect on the microbes present in the fecal samples, says Cerniglia, apparently because the dispersant is doing what it was designed to do: break up the oil blobs into smaller blobs with greater surface-to-volume ratios and greater bioavailability. "By adding the dispersant to the crude you're solubilizing the oil, which may make it more bioavailable to the organisms and create a potentially toxic response."

The oil and dispersant affected some types of bacteria more than others, says Cerniglia. In fecal samples from all three volunteers in the study that were treated with oil and dispersant, the abundance of Escherichia coli increased while the abundance of Bacteroides uniformis and uncultured Faecalibacterium were reduced. This is important because high densities of E. coli have been associated with greater susceptibility to foodborne infections.

Cerniglia cautions that although the findings reveal that dispersant and crude oil together can have a negative impact on the human microbiome, it is important to note that the concentrations of these materials in seafood are typically well below the concentrations used in this study.

"We had to get to the higher concentrations to see an effect," says Cerniglia. "And that's not a typical concentration that would be found in a residue analysis of seafood." Hence, although high concentrations of oil and dispersant can impact gut communities, there is no evidence to indicate shellfish harbor great enough quantities of these materials to have an effect. "It's almost like a worst case scenario, but that's the kind of information one needs to know in the beginning," so that scientists can eventually discern what safe levels of exposure to oil-dispersants mixtures might be.

Moving forward, Cerniglia says his group would like to expand the preliminary study to include samples from a greater number and variety of volunteers. "The microbiota of each individual is unique. We provided information with the three individuals' fecal samples that we used, but we'd like to expand that," Cerniglia says.

mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at http://mBio.asm.org.

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asmusa.org
http://mBio.asm.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>