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Coastal creatures may have reduced ability to fight off infections in acidified oceans

Westminster, Colo. (August 5, 2010)Human impact is causing lower oxygen and higher carbon dioxide levels in coastal water bodies. Increased levels of carbon dioxide cause the water to become more acidic, having dramatic effects on the lifestyles of the wildlife that call these regions home. The problems are expected to worsen if steps aren't taken to reduce greenhouse emissions and minimize nutrient-rich run-off from developed areas along our coastlines.

The ocean is filled with a soup of bacteria and viruses. The animals living in these environments are constantly under assault by pathogens and need to be able to mount an immune response to protect themselves from infection, especially if they have an injury or wound that is openly exposed to the water.

Louis Burnett, professor of biology and director of the Grice Marine Laboratory of the College of Charleston, and Karen Burnett, research associate professor at Grice Marine Laboratory of the College of Charleston, study the effects of low oxygen and high carbon dioxide on organisms' immune systems. They have found that organisms in these conditions can't fight off infections as well as animals living in oxygen rich, low carbon dioxide environments.

The Burnetts will be presenting their findings at the Global Change and Global Science: Comparative Physiology in a Changing World conference from August 4-7, 2010 in Westminster, Colorado. This conference is in part sponsored by the American Physiological Society ( The full conference program can be found at

Decreased Ability to Fight Infection

The researchers examined fish, oysters, crabs and shrimp, and showed that all these animals have a decreased ability to fight off infection of Vibrio bacteria when sub

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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