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New parasite could be late summer beach pest

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have discovered a new sea anemone that is thought to have established itself in Swedish waters. Larvae from similar anemones causes skin problems for sea bathers in the USA.

Researchers at the Department of Marine Ecology at the University of Gothenburg have been following the invasion of the American comb jellyfish, Mnemiopsis, for several years. They have now discovered that it contains larvae from another species: a sea anemone that lives on it as a parasite. According to the researchers, this could be the same parasite that causes skin rashes on sea bathers in the USA.

Causes skin irritation

The sea anemone, which the Gothenburg researchers believe to have identified through DNA analysis as Edwardsiella, is common in the comb jellyfish's natural environment in the West Atlantic, but has not previously been found in Swedish waters or anywhere else that the comb jellyfish has spread to. It is the sea anemone's larvae which live as parasites on the jellyfish, and which cause skin irritation in humans and these may be problematic for Swedish sea bathers too.

Further genetic analysis

"The American variety of the sea anemone causes a skin complaint known as sea bather's eruption, which doesn't generally require treatment, but takes the form of quite a nasty rash that lasts for a few days," says researcher Erik Selander. "But the anemone we have found is confusingly similar to a Swedish anemone called Edwardsiella carnea, and we won't know which of the two species it is, or whether there actually are two species involved, until we have carried out further genetic analysis.

Isolated cases

"If it is the American Edwardsiella that has come here, we could see isolated cases of sea bather's eruption here in Sweden too as we move towards autumn," believes Selander.

September peak

"However, we h

Contact: Erik Selander
University of Gothenburg

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