Seagulls could pass on drug-resistant bacteria to humans, say scientists

Mason Sia 6 from the Gold Coast with seagulls

Mason Sia 6 from the Gold Coast with seagulls

It's called antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and if you're infected by it, it could cause issues like urinary tract infections and sepsis which occurs when chemicals released in the bloodstream to fight an infection trigger inflammation throughout the body.

Seagulls at some level of Australia are carrying superbugs proof against antibiotics, scientists impart.

Scientists said 20% of silver gulls were thought to carry disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

There are also fears that the resistant bacteria could impact Australia's livestock and agriculture produce.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control found that in 2015, 33,000 people died due to infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Birds in Europe have also been found to carry drug-resistant superbugs. Antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella has also been reported in wild birds in Germany.

"Humans are now transmitting their pathogens to commensal wildlife around Australia's major cities and these drug resistant microbes are likely to be returned with interest through contaminated surfaces, water and food", Dr Dunlop said.

"Seagulls act as ecological sponges (bio-accumulators) and we have earmarked them as a potential reservoir for agents that may cause human disease", lead researcher Dr Sam Abraham said in a statement. "These are bacteria that reside in [the] human gut, and we think that the seagulls are getting in touch with human feces somehow through sewage, or through nappies or incontinence pads from nursing homes and probably through the waste dumps where these seagulls go and scavenge", he said.

"Gulls transfer the resistance by fresh droppings".

People can protect themselves by washing their hands or using hand sanitizer after coming into contact with seagulls or their faeces, the scientists added.

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