South West Wales

Seal pups get food poisoning from human waste, study finds

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Media captionThe campylobacter jejuni bacterium was present in half of the samples taken from 140 living and dead seals

Seal pups are contracting food poisoning from human waste, a new study has discovered.

Researchers found a number of grey seal pups on the Isle of May, near Edinburgh, were infected with a gastroenteritis-causing bacteria.

Analysis showed the likely source was sewage and waste from farming and livestock which contaminated the water.

The study was carried out by researchers in Scotland and at Swansea University.

The team studied newborn and juvenile seals and samples found bacteria in 70 out of 140 of the animals.

The research was led by Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh, alongside the University of St Andrews' Sea Mammal Research Unit, and the College of Medicine at Swansea.

Swansea University's Samuel Sheppard said the findings were "striking" and showed for the first time how the disease may be spreading to wildlife.

"Although this study looked at seals in Scottish waters, it is likely that seals off the coast of Wales, and across the UK, would be similarly affected," he said, after the study was published in the journal, Molecular Ecology.

Moredun's Dr Johanna Baily added: "They raise concerns about the environmental pollution of British coastlines with faecal bacteria, and the subsequent spread of human pathogens to wildlife marine sentinel species."

Image copyright Swansea University
Image caption Little is known about the transmission of campylobacter to wild animals

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