Recent research from McGill University shows that microplastics in the digestive tract of seabirds can alter the gut microbiome by increasing the presence of pathogens and antibiotic-resistant microbes while lowering the beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
For their study, the researchers examined the gut microbiome of two seabird species, including the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) and the Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis) that live predominantly on the high seas and feed on marine mollusks, crustaceans, and fish. The researchers found that microplastic ingestion changed the microbial communities throughout the gastrointestinal tract of both seabird species.
Study co-author Julia Baak, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University, comments on the study results: “The gut microbiome encompasses all the microbes in the gastrointestinal tract, which help control the digestion of food, immune system, central nervous system, and other bodily processes. It’s a key indicator of health and well-being.”