STUDY: Viral infection may be linked to 2014 Toledo water crisis

Virus that infected the cells of cyanobacteria that made up Lake Erie's 2014 algal bloom may have played a role in releasing more toxins.

Jun 2nd, 2017
Content Dam Ww Online Articles 2017 06 Microcystis Aeruginosa
Microcystis, the cyanobacterial organism responsible for scum-like algal blooms in Lake Erie. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

ANN ARBOR, MI, JUNE 2, 2017 -- A virus that infected the cells of cyanobacteria from Lake Erie's 2014 algal bloom may have played a role in releasing more toxins from the bloom, according to a study published by Environmental Science and Technology.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Tennessee and James Madison University, examined the physiological traits of Microcystis, the cyanobacterial organism responsible for Lake Erie's algal blooms. The study showed that the Microcystis cells from 2014 had a viral infection. In August 2014, the city of Toledo's water supply was shut down due to the presence of these toxins, leaving more than 400,000 area residents without potable water for more than two days.

The toxins from algal blooms are usually trapped within the cell until the cell dies, but viral infections can cause cells to break open, releasing the toxin into the water. According to a news release by the University of Michigan, "The scientists documented the viral infection by sequencing RNA from the Toledo water samples. They also used mathematical models to simulate how the algal blooms moved through water: satellite images were used to pinpoint where the blooms were on certain days and computer models filled gaps in between."

Researchers hope the study will help scientists figure out why cases of algal blooms have grown in the last few years.

Read more here.

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