A current British study is analysing marine bacteria present in large quantities in the intestines of surfers. The goal is to better understand how antibiotic-resistant bacteria in water affects the human gut and, ultimately, human health.

Numerous studies have shed light on the serious state of marine pollution along the British coast. Though seawater contains plastics and other waste, it also houses bacteria that, over time and because of the

accumulation of antibiotics emanating from farmed animals, among others, have become resistant to it. Yet these same bacteria then make their way into the human body after being ingested by swimmers, which could in turn make them resistant to those antibiotics as well.

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It’s all fun and games till scientists bring out the rectal kits. Photo: EPA

To learn more, and to measure the impact of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, scientists from the University of Exeter Medical School plan to analyse the intestinal flora of 300 British surfers and work in collaboration with Surfers Against Sewage, an organisation that is very involved in the fight against marine pollution. They are in fact responsible for an alert system, Safer Seas Service, that has warned of almost 400 separate pollution events across England and Wales, issuing free, real-time warnings be beach users.

A major public health issue

Surfers have been picked as the baseline for this study because they absorb, on average, 170ml of seawater per session, or the equivalent of one cup, making them an interesting source for this study. Rectal kits will be used in order to get bacteria samples.

These samples will then be compared to those culled from ordinary swimmers. Thus, the scientists hope to isolate the bacteria that have developed a resistance to the antibiotics. This is important work, because according to those responsible for this study, “the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria constitutes one of the greatest health threats facing humans today.”

This research should also allow the scientists to understand the way in which the bacteria are able to adapt in the human body, far from their natural habitat. The results of the research will be published in 2016. – AFP Relaxnews