Scientists reported on Thursday that shellfish can get cancer and they believe that this cancer is spread from clam to clam by rogue bobbing through the ocean.
Scientists examined clams from New York to Prince Edward Island, Canada.
According to the scientists, clams are able to get leukemia, a blood cancer, because they have a circulatory system.
The leukemia kills the clams, but fortunately, it poses no risk to people who eat clams.
The study worked to uncover signs of a cancer-causing virus in these clams. However, the data demonstrated that there isn’t a virus behind the cancer.
Instead researchers found that the cause of the cancer is a shock. Each of the cancer cells examined, had a similar genetic fingerprint. This strongly suggests the cancer is spread when these cells replicate and spread through the water.
The data also showed that cells can survive in seawater for a lengthy period of time.
The cancerous cells spread easily because clams feed by filtering enormous volumes of seawater. It is highly likely that they simply siphon up these free-floating cancer cells and then catch cancer.
Only two other cancers are known to spread by cells. One is devastating populations of meat-eating marsupials in Australia, Tasmanian devils. The other is spread sexually in dogs. Researchers believe this cancer in clams could be the third example.
Although researchers are confident in their theory, there has not yet been a critical lab experiment to show that this cell-based transmission actually occurs.
Scientists who study these clams are eager to get going on these experiments to see whether it is possible to prove that this transmission actually occurs.
This also creates questions about how diseases might spread through the marine environment and may even have implications for human health.