The 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by the explosion of British Petroleum's deep-sea drilling rig, harmed tunas in a way that could lead to heart attacks and sudden cardiac death, according to a new report.

The study, carried out by researchers at Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was published Friday in Science magazine.

Researchers discovered that remains of the crude interfere with the heart cells of these fish and lead to a slower heart rate and irregular heartbeats that can lead to cardiac arrest and the animals' sudden death.

Scientists at California's Stanford University and the NOAA discovered that crude residues in seas and oceans interrupt the ability of heart cells in the fish to beat effectively

"The ability of a heart cell to beat depends on its capacity to move essential ions like potassium and calcium into and out of the cells quickly," Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences at Stanford, said.

The scientist recalled that this process is common to all vertebrates and that crude interferes with this system that is vital to the functioning of heart cells.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill occurred when a Deepwater Horizon drilling platform operated by BP exploded and sank into the sea on April 20, 2010.

Eleven people died in the accident, which poured more than 4 million barrels of crude oil into the gulf.

It took 85 days before the Macondo oil well could be capped.

At the time, U.S. President Barack Obama described the incident as "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced." EFE