Paving the Way for Pathogens

Coastal beach development
Pavement and coastal development, seen here at Venice Beach, California, can increase the flow of pathogens from land to the ocean. Credit: Mike Powell/Getty Images

Coastal waters near heavy human development are more likely to receive land-based “pathogen pollution,” which can include viruses, bacteria and parasites, according to a recent study from the University of California, Davis. The study said higher levels of rainfall and development increase the risk of disease-causing organisms flowing to the ocean.

The study, published recently in Nature Scientific Reports, adds to years of work by a consortium of researchers led by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The scientists were called upon to help decipher the mystery in the late 1990s when a parasite hosted by cats, Toxoplasma gondii, caused deaths in sea otters along the coast of California.

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