ANAHEIM, CA -- Diseases related to poisonous substances in the ocean can have a significant impact on human health, the environment, and the economy. The key to solving these problems, says Dr. Gerardo Vasts, professor of biochemistry and immunology with the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute's Center of Marine Biotechnology, is learning more about the genetic make-up of pathogenic microorganisms and how they proliferate and become toxic.
"We need to develop accurate probes to detect and monitor them. This will assist our efforts in diagnosis, prevention, and remediation in the fisheries and aquaculture industries."
Vasta will address these concerns in an online news briefing on "Health Risks and Diseases of the Ocean," as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting and Science Innovation Exposition in Anaheim. The online briefing, to be broadcast over the Internet through EurekAlert!, is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. ET, Friday, January 22.
Vasta also will consider questions about shellfish as transmitters of disease to seafood consumers. "These are significant concerns," he adds, "because microbial diseases in the marine environment may not only harm marine ecosystems, natural resources such as fisheries, and aquaculture stocks, they also may affect human health."
The eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), for example, an efficient filter feeder and therefore ecologically important, has been decimated along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts by parasitic diseases, seriously affecting the oyster industry. In the Chesapeake Bay, mass mortalities due to protozoan infections such as "Dermo" (Perkinsus marinus) and MSX (Haplosporidium nelsoni) have severely reduced existing oyster populations and have affected harvests during the past two decades.
More recently, skin lesions and mass mortalities in various fish species also
have been associated with human health problems such as memory loss and skin
Contact: B.J. Altschul
University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute