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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Multi stress system: Microplastics in freshwater and their effects on host microbiota

Varg, Javier Edo; Svanback, Richard


Microplastics are persistent and complex contaminants that have recently been found in freshwater systems, raising concerns about their presence in aquatic organisms. Plastics tend to be seen as an inert material; however, it is not well known if exposure to plastics for a prolonged time, in combination with organic chemicals, causes organism mortality. Ingestion of microplastics in combination with another pollutant may affect a host organism's fitness by altering the host microbiome. In this study, we investigated how microplastics interact with other pollutants in this multi-stress system, and whether they have a synergistic impact on the mortality of an aquatic organism and its microbiome. We used wild water boatmen Hemiptera (Corixidae) found at lake Erken located in east-central Sweden in a fully factorial two-way microcosm experiment designed with polystyrene microspheres and a commonly used detergent. The microplastic-detergent interaction is manifested as a significant increase in mortality compared to the other treatments at 48 h of exposure. The diversity of the microbial communities in the water was significantly affected by the combined treatment of microplastics and the detergent while the microbial communities in the host were affected by the treatments with microplastics and the detergent alone. Changes in relative abundance in Gammaproteobacteria (family Enterobacteriaceae), were observed in the perturbed treatments mostly associated with the presence of the detergent. This confirms that microplastics can interact with detergents having toxic effects on wild water boatmen. Furthermore, microplastics may impact wild organisms via changes in their microbial communities.


Host microbiome; Water boatmen; Environmental stress; Water pollutants; Sodium dodecyl sulfate; Ecotoxicology

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2023, Volume: 856, article number: 159106
Publisher: ELSEVIER

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    Environmental Sciences

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