Here, pieces of plastic can end up collecting different types of bacteria that stick to their surface. Seabirds who ingest them not only get a stomach full of plastic, which can lead to starvation, but are also exposed to types of bacteria they wouldn’t otherwise encounter. It seems to disrupt their gut microbiomes.
Similar problems exist for humans. These tiny pieces of plastic floating and flying around the world can act as a “Trojan horse,” introducing harmful drug-resistant bacteria and their genes, some researchers say.
This is a very disturbing thought. Hopefully, as research progresses, we will learn not only what microplastics are doing to us, but also how we can solve the problem.
More from the Tech Review archives
It is too simplistic to say that we should ban all plastic. But we could revolutionize the way we recycle, as my colleague Casey Crownhart pointed out in an article published last year.
We can use wastewater to monitor the growth of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, as I wrote in the previous issue of the Check. We need all the help we can get at this point…
… that’s partly why scientists are also exploring the possibility of using tiny viruses to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections. Phages were discovered about 100 years ago and are set to make a comeback!
Our immune system is incredibly complex. And sex matters: There are important differences between the immune systems of men and women, as Sandeep Ravindran wrote in an article published in the gender issue of our magazine.