It is not often that we use the terms cocaine and eels in the same sentence. But as it turns out, eels of Italy’s Sarno River seem to be seriously affected by the drug – and, that too by the intentional will of the scientists. To that end, researchers have been exposing these organisms to low doses of cocaine, so as to analyse the long-term pharmacological effects of the drug on the marine organism. The concentration of the cocaine was obviously kept at a minuscule scale that equated to 20 nanograms per liter of water, served over a period of 50 days. But in spite of this low volume, the eventual results were unsurprisingly not pleasant – with the addled eels showcasing a slew of side-effects, including the reduction of mucous cells, along with the increase of steroid hormones like cortizol and neuro-transmitters like dopamine.
As made clear by the abstract of the study –
In the skin, cocaine decreased the number and size of mucous cells, increased the thickness of the epidermis and altered the club cells and the basal lamina. In the intestine, cocaine increased the thickness of the epithelium and the number of mucous cells and reactivated the structure of the intestine and of the intestinal musculature. Moreover, cocaine increased plasma prolactin, cortisol and dopamine levels.
This is followed by a simple yet ominous statement that relates to how the physiological alterations brought on by the induction of cocaine could pretty much threaten the capability of the eels to make their migrations and then reproduce.
Now, while this may seem unfair on the part of the scientists involved, the assessment was actually done so as to get a broader perspective on the baleful effects of water pollution on marine organisms (like fishes and eels). As a matter of fact, some of the previously done studies have established beyond doubt how the rate of pollution entailing both plastic and chemical wastes are severely affecting various forms of life.
For example, back in 2013, a study performed by University of Queensland researchers pertained to how sea turtles have the probability of 50 percent to ingest harmful plastic wastes (a number that had risen from 30 percent in the 80’s). And, if one measures this up with the 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals being dumped in to US waterways, the sheer scale of a potential environmental calamity is hard to discount.