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Study Finds 28 Different Types of Bacteria In Florida Algae Blooms

Toxic algae blooms plagued the Indian River Lagoon in 2016. Photo: WMFE file

Last summer, blue-green algae blooms on Florida’s coasts killed fish and nauseated residents and tourists. There’s a new study of water samples taken from Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie Estuary last June and July.

Scientists found 28 different types of bacteria in the algae, some of which can be harmful to humans.

The main species of bacteria found in the blooms can cause liver damage, and scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey said some of the other types produce neurotoxins. The algae also can cause rashes, respiratory irritation and vomiting. That’s why officials closed beaches on the Treasure and Gulf coasts last summer.

The researchers pointed to fertilizer in water from lawns and agriculture that contributes to the blooms, as does water that’s warm and slow-moving.

The lead author, Dr. Barry Rosen, said his team is working to understand why blooms may or may not emerge under similar conditions.

A spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District said no organized blooms have been reported this year.

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