Student researchers testing the health of the Oso Bay have found a potentially dangerous microorganism that, under the right conditions, can produce a toxin in shellfish that makes anyone who eats them sick.
It is the first time this type of toxic organism has been found along the Texas coast, and came as quite a surprise to researchers.
"It's really another indicator that the health of the bay isn't what it should be," said Michael Wetz, assistant professor of marine biology at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.
Dr. Mike Wetz was recently awarded more than $70,000 from the Texas General Land Office to study the water quality in Oso Bay. It was during that study when the discovery was made by a group of student researchers who collected samples from the bay and put them under a microscope.
"It's called dinoflagellate pyrodinium bahamense," Wetz said. He said that the concern with this specific organism is the toxin it produces. "If it gets to the level of humans, it can have significant neurological health impacts."
The professor said the toxic species has been found in Florida, but never in Texas. It could have arrived by currents or even caught a ride from passing ships. Student researchers are continuing to monitor Oso Bay to find out how widespread the microorganism is.
So far, there are no reports of anyone locally who has gotten sick from it, because usually, the bay is not a place where people tend to harvest shellfish or oysters.
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