Surfers more likely to develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria in intestines

January 17, 2018 | Environment
Beach Bums: the study led University of Exeter in conjunction with Surfers Against Sewage revealed disturbing results | Photo: University of Exeter

British surfers are three times more likely to have antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) in their intestines than non-surfers.

The study conducted by the University of Exeter in conjunction with environmental organization Surfers Against Sewage revealed that wave riders ingest ten times more ocean water than people who swim in the sea and don't surf.

Researchers asked UK surfers to provide fecal samples to assess whether their guts contained E. coli bacteria that were able to grow in the presence of a widely used antibiotic - cefotaxime.

Cefotaxime is known for efficiently killing E. coli bacteria, but could surfers have developed a proper resistance to the antibiotic?

After comparing the result to non-surfers, scientists discovered that 9 percent of surfers had antibiotic-resistant bacteria, compared to just 3 percent of non-surfers.

"Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest health challenges of our time. We urgently need to know more about how humans are exposed to these bacteria and how they colonize our guts," underlined Anne Leonard, from the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study.

The results are alarming because they confirm that genes can be passed between bacteria, which means that they can potentially spread the ability to resist antibiotic treatment between bacteria.

The research was conducted in England and Wales and analyzed a total of 300 samples. According to the researchers, around 2.5 million surf sessions take place every year in British waters.

The state of UK marine waters is not dramatically different from international patterns. Which leads us to the conclusion that surfers are indeed a vulnerable population, and sewage and waste pollution are serious threats that should be urgently addressed by local authorities and national governments.

Take a look at the most common types of ocean pollution.

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