CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Researchers at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are monitoring the impacts that Saharan dust has on the growth of Vibrio.
It's a species that can lead to skin irritations or infections for those getting into the water with open cuts, ranging from a recent injury to a new tattoo or piercing.
Michael Wetz with the Harte Research Institute said that the bacteria is more common than people may realize.
"It's a bacteria that's naturally found in our marine waters," Wetz said. "And, you know, usually it doesn't really do anything. But for some people, especially people that are immunocompromised, it can cause some very serious health effects if they get Vibrio."
The bacteria is more commonly found during the warmer months of the year. Aside from rising temperatures, influences like Saharan dust can be a critical contributor.
"Our previous work over in the Florida Keys showed that when the dust hit the ocean water it basically gave the Vibrio all the things that it needed to grow, and it just flourished," Wetz said.
The Texas Sea Grant recently provided funding to Wetz and his team to figure out what that looks like in our gulf waters. He said the end goal is to try to develop a warning system before the dust arrives in the Coastal Bend.
"Three, four days from now you might not want to, you know be in the water if you're immunocompromised or in general. Be particularly careful about practicing good hygiene. If you get cuts and things like that," Wetz said.
As Saharan dust makes its way into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time this year the team said they will be watching throughout the season.
"A lot of colonies of Vibrio growing so it's very interesting to see like what will happen during the summer with those nutrients also being added in the water, I'm expecting big bloom," said Felipe Urrutia a student with the HRI.
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