North Carolina Killer
Organism hits North Sea
A potentially lethal micro-organism, dubbed the 'cell from hell', has begun to invade the North Sea after travelling more than 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometres) from the shores of North America.
The cells, called pfiesteria piscicida, were originally a harmless plant. But in North Carolina, massive and continual water pollution caused pfiesteria to mutate into a highly toxic killer preying on fish.
American fishermen, already suffering from declining catches, had to stand by and watch as the killer cell wiped out millions of fish causing huge losses in the industry.
Marine experts now warn that the same could happen in the North Sea.
Pfiesteria was first discovered in 1988, in the sediment of rivers and along the coast of North Carolina. Without warning, the plant mutated and began preying on fish. When pfiesteria attacks, it uses its poison to stun the fish which then lose all orientation. The organism then proceeds to eat the fish alive. This was frightening enough for environmentalists and fishermen alike, but soon humans became targets, too. More and more people living and working along the coast began to suffer from open sores which would not heal, and had headaches and memory loss.
In one experiment, scientists placed pfiesteria cells in human blood. The results were stunning: the killer cells immediately attacked and swallowed all the blood cells.
So far, scientists are at a loss as to how to counter the pfiesteria threat. The organism is almost indestructible. When pfiesteria cysts are put into sulphuric acid they survive for 30 minutes. A human body thrown into sulphuric acid would quickly dissolve.
Pfiesteria has now crossed the Atlantic and turned up on the British Coast. Nobody quite knowns how the organism managed to do that, but marine biologists assume that it hitched a ride -- hiding in water picked up by freighters in North Carolina as ballast water.
Only one thing is certain: the "cell from hell" has arrived in the North Sea and its fishermen are worried. -BBC News

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