Evidence for Genetic Modification of Microorganisms Occurring in Natural Aquatic Environments

    Published: Jan 1986

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    Recent work at a deep ocean dump site off the coast of Puerto Rico has shown that changes in the microbial populations of the receiving waters can be detected, that is, changes in bacterial community structure, over and above seasonal effects, have been documented. Microbial impact of the dumping of wastes occurs at three levels that can be measured. These include the initial effects at the time of dumping, followed by sustained community structural changes, and, finally, genetic modification of the natural population evidenced by increased incidence of plasmids. The ocean dumping studies were augmented by examination of the incidence of plasmids in bacteria isolated from samples collected at other locations in the Atlantic Ocean, including outfall samples collected at Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, off shore samples collected at an outfall off Ocean City, MD, and a clean unpolluted site. The incidence of plasmids could be significantly and dramatically related to influx of sewage. Thus, environmental changes already occur as a result of entrance of allochthonous material into the marine environment. It is clear that baseline measurements are necessary to determine genetic alteration already taking place, before effects of entry of genetically engineered organisms to the marine environment can be determined.


    plasmids, genetically engineered microorganisms, deep ocean waste disposal, pharmaceutical waste, in situ, plasmid transfer, R plasmids, transduction, conjugation, allogenic succession, Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, marine bacteria, estuarine bacteria, aquatic toxicology

    Author Information:

    Colwell, RR
    Professor of Microbiology and research associate professor, University of Maryland, College Park, MD

    Grimes, DJ
    Professor of Microbiology and research associate professor, University of Maryland, College Park, MD

    Committee/Subcommittee: E47.08

    DOI: 10.1520/STP29027S

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