British scientists find surfers more likely exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria

British scientists find surfers more likely exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria

British scientists find surfers more likely exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Researchers of the University of Exeter conducted a study among 300 people, most of whom are regular surfers, to see whether they are more vulnerable to bacteria in sea water, including the antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli), which can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and other illnesses because these surfers swallow 10 times more sea water than sea swimmers. So for every non-surfer with untreatable E. coli bacteria, there were three surfers.

Regular surfers and body boarders swallow 10-times more sea water than sea swimmers, making them more vulnerable to contamination from seawater pollutants. Recently, the UN Environment Assembly recognised the spread of antibiotic resistance in the environment as one of the world's greatest emerging environmental concerns.

The study, which used the antibiotic cefotaxime for testing E. coli resistance, appeared Sunday in the journal Environment International.

Researchers also found that people who regularly surf or bodyboard in the UK's coastal waters were four times as likely to harbour bacteria containing genes that make them resistant to antibiotics.

They took samples of poo from 143 surfers or body boarders who took to the waters at least 3 times a month and compared them to samples from 130 people who had little exposure to sea water.

There is an urgent need to curb antibiotic-resistance or else we may be entering an era in which antibiotics are no longer effective to kill simple, and previously treatable, bacterial infections, warned the World Health Organization.

According to the 2016 O'Neill report commissioned by the United Kingdom government, antimicrobial resistant infections could kill one person every three seconds by the year 2050 if current trends continue. However, increasing priority is being placed on the role of the environment in spreading the problem in addition to transmission within hospitals, between people and via food. "We now hope that our results will help policy-makers, beach managers, and water companies to make evidence-based decisions to improve water quality even further for the benefit of public health".

Researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School compared samples of fecal matter from 143 frequent surfers or bodyboarders (at least 3x per month) to 130 volunteers who had low exposure to seawater (no a couple of times per month). Photo credit: University of Exeter. Anne F.C. Leonard, Lihong Zhang, Andrew J. Balfour, Ruth Garside, Peter M. Hawkey, Aimee K. Murray, Obioha C. Ukoumunne, William H. Gaze.

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