Are surfers affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

July 2, 2015 | Environment
Surfing: are we developing antibiotic resistance | Photo: Sam Swanson/Creative Commons

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have teamed up with scientists from the University of Exeter Medical School to study how wave riders exposed to water pollution might be affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The innovative study is calling on surfers across the United Kingdom to help by providing samples gathered from rectal swabs. Initially, it can sound quite uncomfortable, but the goal is absolutely valid.

"We know that surfers regularly swallow lots more seawater than other beach users - around 170 ml per session, which is more than 10 times that of sea swimmers," explains Anne Leonard, one of the researchers behind the "Beach Bums" study.

"We've already shown that this water may contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but we have no idea how this might affect the microbes that live in our guts, or how it could impact upon health."

The joint-venture is asking 150 healthy adults who surf or bodyboard at least three times a month, to take part in a study that will give researchers an insight into the microbes that are colonizing participant's guts.

Scientists believe that by comparing samples from those who regularly spend time in seawater with those who don't, they'll be able to build a clearer picture of how antibiotic resistance in the environment can affect people.

The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been described as one of the greatest health threats facing humans today. As microbes become immune to existing antibiotics, our ability to treat common infections is rapidly diminishing.

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