Regular surfers and bodyboarders are three times more likely to have antibiotic-resistant E. coli in their guts than non-surfers, new research has revealed. Conducted by the University of Exeter, the “Beach Bums” study asked 300 people, half of whom regularly surf the UK's coastline, to take rectal swabs. Surfers swallow ten times more sea water than sea swimmers, and scientists wanted to find out if that made them more vulnerable to bacteria that pollute seawater, and whether those bacteria are resistant to an antibiotic. Scientists compared fecal samples from surfers and non-surfers to assess whether the surfers' guts contained E. coli bacteria that were able to grow in the presence of cefotaxime, a commonly used and clinically important antibiotic. Cefotaxime has previously been prescribed to kill off these bacteria, but some have acquired genes that enable them to survive this treatment. The study, published online on January 14, 2018 in Environment International, found that 13 of 143 (9%) of surfers were colonized by these resistant bacteria, compared to just four of 130 (3%) of non-surfers swabbed. That meant that the bacteria would continue to grow even if treated with cefotaxime. The open-access article is titled “Exposure to and Colonization by Antibiotic-Resistant E. Coli In UK Coastal Water Users: Environmental Surveillance, Exposure Assessment, and Epidemiological Study (Beach Bum Survey).” Researchers also found that regular surfers were four times as likely to harbor bacteria that contain mobile genes that make bacteria resistant to the antibiotic. This is significant because the genes can be passed between bacteria - potentially spreading the ability to resist antibiotic treatment between bacteria.
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