A UK study revealed that surfers are at a higher risk of harboring antibiotic-resistant E.coli bacteria than non-surfers.
Researchers from the University of Exeter asked 300 people to submit rectal swabs for analysis. Half of the subjects regularly surfed England’s and Wales’ coastlines while the other half were non-sea swimmers and acted as a control group.
The study found that nine percent of the surfers had bacteria that were resistant to antibiotics, six percent higher than the control group. In addition, the researchers found that surfers were three times likelier to have antibiotic-resistant E.coli in their stool than people who didn’t surf. To offer a bigger picture to the overall threat, the researchers also analyzed a number of samples taken from 97 locations along the UK’s coast. They found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 11 of the samples.
“Antimicrobial resistance has been globally recognized as one of the greatest health challenges of our time,” said lead author of the study, Anne Leonard.
Surfers tended to be viable E.coli carriers due to the large amounts of seawater they ingested during a surf session.
As for how antibiotic bacteria got in the water, the researchers believe the source of the bacteria comes from water run-off locations such as farms crops treated with manure and sewage. The E.coli strain found in the surfers is resistant to an antibiotic called cefotaxime, which commonly prescribed by doctors.
The World Health Organization states that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are one of the biggest threats to “global health, food security, and development today”.
While the authors do not want to discourage people from coastal activities they stress the need to keep waters clean. They urge policy-makers and beach managers alike to improve water quality for the benefit of public health.
The study was published in the journal, Environment International.
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