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Research suggests climate change could make salmonella risk higher in coastal areas

Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

A recent study from the University of Maryland suggests that salmonella risk could be higher in coastal areas as the planet gets warmer.

Researchers analyzed salmonella cases alongside extreme weather and precipitation events that took place across a 10-year period in Maryland. They found a higher risk of salmonella in coastal areas than inland areas. The study was released online at the end of June by the journal Environment International.

The study’s researchers noted that coastal areas tend to have more sandy soils, as opposed to the rock and gravel underneath inland areas. Since water moves more easily through sand, it’s possible the soil type in coastal areas could promote the spread of salmonella. Also, the coast of Maryland is agricultural and, like Delaware, has many poultry operations, which can increase risk of contracting salmonella. Inland areas tend to be more urban.

Kali Kniel, a professor at University of Delaware who specializes in food safety, says that the study is a good start towards looking at how climate change will affect the spread of pathogens in places like Maryland and Delaware.


“Certainly, these [findings] are applicable to Delaware and other areas," said Kniel. "I don’t think this study is as clear cut about its message as the researchers might suggest.”

Kniel says the cases of salmonella the researchers examined were also tied to outbreaks that happened nationwide with peanut butter and cantaloupe, for instance, some of which were due to negligence.

She added that there is an increasing amount of research going into looking at how pathogens can survive extreme heat, heavy rain and other conditions tied to climate change. Studies like University of Maryland’s are important in figuring out how to manage the risk of getting infected by bacteria like salmonella, especially if some areas, like out on the coast, will be more impacted than others.