Published: Sun, May 27, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Scientists find opioids, antibiotics in mussels off B.C. coast

Scientists find opioids, antibiotics in mussels off B.C. coast

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife brought in clean mussels from Whigby Island and put them in the water at Elliott Bay by Harbor Island to test the water for pollution.

However, in this study, the amounts of opioids detected were thousands of times smaller than a human dose. And the highly addictive drug was only ingested by mussels in three of 18 test sites, described as highly urbanized and not near any commercial shellfish beds.

"What we eat and what we excrete goes into the Puget Sound", Lanksbury told KIRO-TV.

"Things like, they can affect the growth of organisms, their hormone systems, their ability to reproduce", she explained. Some of the oxycodone consumed by people end up in the toilet before going to wastewater treatment plants.

Recent studies show that zebrafish have the same opioid receptors as humans, meaning they can get addicted in the same way - and researchers hope that these fish can be used in studies to find treatments that can help humans eliminate addictions.

Mussels, which are filter feeders, concentrate contaminants from the local marine environment into their tissues.

The researchers said the mussels they study typically test positive for other pharmaceutical drugs, as well as illegal drugs such as cocaine, but they hadn't tested positive for opioids until now.

"The doses of oxycodone that we found in mussels are like 100 to 500 times lower than you would need for an adult male therapeutic dose", Jennifer Lanskbury, a biologist with the department, explained to CNN.

Oxycodone is a powerful narcotic used to treat severe pain and is highly addictive possessing many of the same euphoric properties as heroine
Oxycodone is a powerful narcotic used to treat severe pain and is highly addictive possessing many of the same euphoric properties as heroine

She says the chemicals may be having an impact on fish and shellfish in the areas.

The Puget Sound Institute analyzed data and discovered that in three locations out of eighteen, there were positive results for traces of oxycodone.

"Opioid" is pretty high on the list of now-very-common words that diminish the potency of language and make everyone sound like a machine.

"Hopefully our data shows what is out there and could get the process started for cleaning up our waters".

"We sent 18 samples (of mussels) to a laboratory up in Canada and asked for a suite of pharmaceutical and personal care products", Lanksbury said.

People have nothing to worry about when it comes to eating mussels from a restaurant or shop because they come from clean locations., but it's another sign of what's ending up in the water and harming marine life.

Every other year, the department specifically monitors herring, English sole, Chinook salmon and mussels for contaminants.

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