Scientific Study of Surfer Butts Reveal Drug-Resistant Bacteria in the Oceans

Surfers are known to brave bad weather, dangerously sized waves, and even sharks, for the perfect ride. But, it seems another danger of surfing has been lying in plain sight all along: ocean waters are full of drug-resistant bacteria — and surfers are most at risk.


In a study published this weekend in the journal Environmental International, a team of researchers from the University of Exeter found that regular surfers and bodyboarders are four times as likely as normal beach-goers to harbor bacteria with high likelihoods of antibiotic resistance. This is because surfers typically swallow ten times more seawater during a surf session than sea swimmers.

The cheekily named Beach Bums study, carried out with the help of UK charity Surfers Against Sewage compared rectal swabs from 300 participants and found that 9 percent of the surfers and bodyboarders (13 of 143) harbored drug-resistant E. coli in their systems, compared to just 3 percent of non-surfers (four of 130).

World Health Organization Anti-Microbial Resistance
The World Health Organization is concerned about drug resistance.

The World Health Organization has warned that widespread drug resistance may render antibiotics useless in the face of otherwise easily treatable bacterial infections, meaning that just as in the age before Penicillin, diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia, blood poisoning, gonorrhea, food– and water-born illnesses as well as routine medical procedures that can lead to infection, including joint replacements and chemotherapy, could once again be fatal.

 Indeed, a 2016 report commissioned by the British government estimated that, by 2050, infections stemming from antimicrobial resistance could kill one person every three seconds.

Solutions to an impending drug resistance epidemic have largely focused on prescriptions and use, but there is an increasing focus on the role of the environment in transmitting drug-resistant bacteria strains. The Beach Bums study adds important insight into how sewage, run-off, and pollution that makes its way into the oceans spread the drug-resistant bacteria.

“We are not seeking to discourage people from spending time in the sea,” says Dr. Will Gaze of the University of Exeter Medical School, who supervised the research. “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.”

Though the study’s purpose is not to alarm beachgoers — or surfers — Dr. Anne Leonard, who led the research, tells Inverse that the risk for anti-drug resistance may actually be lower in the United Kingdom, which “has invested a great deal of money in improving water quality at beaches, and 98 percent of English beaches are compliant with the European Bathing Water Directive. The risk of exposure to and colonization by antibiotic resistant bacteria in seawater might be greater in other countries which have fewer resources to spend on treating wastewater to improve water quality.”

For surfers on this side of the pond, check out the free app available for Apple and iOS, Swim Guide, for updated water quality information on 7,000 beaches in Canada and the U.S.

Discovery could help stem rise of drug-resistant bacteria

A previously unobserved mutation in a strain of Salmonella could lead to the development of smarter therapies and drugs.

The antibiotic “time bomb” could be slowed after a breakthrough that has identified the mechanism by which bacteria cells become resistant to the drugs.

It is hoped the detection of the previously unobserved mutation in a strain of Salmonella could lead to the development of smarter therapies and drugs.

The problem of antibiotic resistance has been described as a “ticking time-bomb” by Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer.

She added that it posed a “catastrophic threat” on a par with terrorism and climate change.

Last year, the World Health Organisation warned that a “post-antibiotic” era was rapidly approaching in which common infections could no longer be tackled with tried and trusted drugs, turning the clock back to a time when even a slight cut or graze might prove fatal.

Currently there is confusion over when antibiotics should be prescribed

The problem of antibiotic resistance has been described as a ‘ticking time-bomb’

Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that a strain of Salmonella contracted by a patient was able to develop resistance to the commonly used antibiotic drug ciprofloxacin.

Over 20 weeks they used genome sequencing to find a mutation in the bacterial cells that allowed them to become resistant to the effects of some antibiotics.

The mutation altered the bacteria’s efflux pumps, which act as cleaners by pushing antibiotics from inside cells to the outside, where they are unable to have any effect.

The researchers found that the mutation made it more efficient at pumping some antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin, out of the bacterial cells.

Dr Jessica Blair, from the University of Birmingham, said: “We cannot know for sure when this mutation happened within this strain.

“What we do know is that it developed soon after this patient was given ciprofloxacin to treat the infection. It’s further evidence that, when it comes to the issue of antibiotic resistance, we are coming up against a very capable and complex adversary.”

The research team hopes that insights such as those contained in the latest study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help lead to treatments that are designed to avoid the impact of the mutation they identified.

Prof Laura Piddock, also from the University of Birmingham, said: “Our study further highlights the need for increased understanding about antibiotic resistance, not least to inform future strategies to both minimise and prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria arising when new treatments become available.”

Prof Piddock added: “Though we don’t want to be seen as scaremongering, we’ve long passed the point at which we can turn a blind eye to the growing threat.”

Old antibiotic altered to fight six types of drug-resistant bacteria .

With antbiotic use becoming more widespread and frequent than ever before, many forms of bacteria are developing a resistance to these drugs, and it’s become one of the biggest challenges facing public health today. But new findings suggest that old, ineffective antibiotics could be altered to fight this global problem.

Researchers in the US have found that if they slightly modify an old antibiotic, it could be made effective again in treating six different drug-resistant bacteria that cause various respiratory and sexually transmitted diseases.

The antibiotic, called spectinomycin, was originally developed as a treatment for gonorrhoea. It worked by interrupting how cells create proteins, which was supposed to halt the growth of the bacteria. The thing was, while the drug was safe, it wasn’t all that effective, so was eventually removed from the market.

More recently, researchers at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis revisited the drug, with an interest in increasing its potency. They were looking specifically at how the drug binds itself to the part of a cell that synthesises proteins, known as the ribosome.

They found that by substituting a benzyl molecule into the antibiotic, it could more easily bind to the cell’s ribosomes to fight a range of bacterial infections. “This study demonstrates how classic antibiotics derived from natural products can be redesigned to create semi-synthetic compounds to overcome drug resistance,” one of the team, biological chemist Richard Lee, said in a press release.

The team went on to develop six compounds that form a new class of antibiotics called aminomethyl spectinomycins. Further testing showed that these new compounds were effective against a range of bacteria, including “a particularly resistant strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae that resists many existing drugs”, they report.

The antibiotics also were effective in treating five other bacteria that cause the sexually transmitted diseases  gonorrhoea  and chlamydia, as well as respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia and influenza. Publishing the results inScience Translational Medicine, the team observed no serious side effects.

Studies on mice and rats showed the drug could also be used to prolong survival in particularly severe pneumonia, while previous research published last year inNature Medicine has shown this class of drugs could also be effective in treating tuberculosis. The particular variety – known as 1599 – appears to be just as effective as current TB drugs on the market, but without the side effects.

“I hope the result will be drugs that are more effective against tuberculosis and offer a faster route to a cure with fewer side effects,” said Lee. With TB remaining a leading cause of global illness and death, killing roughly 1.3 million people each year, we certainly hope so too.

System Tracks Drug-Resistant Bacteria in the BodySystem Tracks Drug-Resistant Bacteria in the BodyLab Reports

Positron emission tomography (PET) combined with sorbitol, an ingredient commonly used in sugar-free foods, can be used to detect and monitor gram-negative bacterial infections in real time, report researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Weinstein EA et al. Sci Transl Med. 2014;6[259]:259ra146).

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The team converted a commercially available PET imaging tracer into radiolabeled sorbitol to selectively tag and illuminate clusters of Enterobacteriaceae within the body. This bacterial family, which includes Escherichia coli, metabolizes sorbitol and is the most common cause of gram-negative bacterial infections in humans.

To Fight Drug-Resistant Superbugs In Hospitals, Researchers Have Developed New Bio-Film Targeting Antibacterial Gel

Amid the current drug-resistant bacteria crisis, it’s become increasingly apparent that past methods of combating germs no longer work. Scientists have developed new ways to protect us from these superbugs, with targeting biofilms being one of the more popular of these techniques. Researchers in Belfast have developed a gel that uses the anti-biofilm method and plan to distribute the product in hospitals throughout the world.

Researchers from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University in Norethern Ireland have devised an ingenious way to deal with the dangerous threat of superbugs in hospitals. Since the first developments of antibiotics in the early 19th century, scientists have gained a better grasp of how these microscopic organisms work. It has become clear that the individual bacteria are of limited harm to humans.

However, when many bacteria group together and form a biofilm, our health is threatened. The innovative gel is designed to target this biofilm, giving them the capability of killing bacteria that are resistant to other types of antibacterial products. “Our gels are unique as they target and kill the most resistant forms of hospital superbugs,” said lead researcher Dr. Garry Laverty, the NY Daily News reported.


The gel works by using peptides, a natural component of human tissue, and then “these molecules are modified slightly in the laboratory to allow them to form gels that will rapidly kill bacteria” Garry explained. The peptides are then used to create gels that can break down the antibacterial resistance and finally kill the now vulnerable staph and E.coli bacteria.

The threat of drug-resistant superbugs is increasing in hospitals throughout the world. Healthday reported that in the American Southeast, community hospitals have seen a fivefold increase in the number of cases of these dangerous bacteria in only the past five years. “A CRE epidemic is fast approaching. We must take immediate and significant action in order to limit the transmission of these dangerous pathogens [germs] throughout our hospitals and acute care facilities,” Dr. Joshua Thaden explained in HealthDay.

The World Health Organization has described these highly contagious and equally dangerous drug-resistant bacteria, also known as carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, as “an increasingly serious threat to global health that requires action.” The bacteria are known to cause infections in the urinary tract, lungs, blood, and other parts of the body, interfering with our ability to treat common infectious disease. Infection from these drug-resistant bacteria could result in disability of the individual, and in the most extreme cases, even death.

Drug-Resistant Bacteria Kill 7th Person at NIH Hospital .

An antibiotic-resistant strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae has killed a seventh patient at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the Washington Post reports.

Since the outbreak began in August 2011, the bacteria have infected 19 patients at the federal hospital, which only sees the sickest of the sick patients. Eleven of these patients died. Six of those deaths were directly attributed to the bacteria.

The hospital implemented strict infection control measures that included replacing plumbing where the bacteria lived, building a wall to isolate infected patients, and hiring hand-washing monitors. The measures appeared to work. For six months, no patients were diagnosed with Klebsiella pneumoniae until this most recent case — a boy with a compromised immune system — was diagnosed in July.

Source: Washington Post

Antibiotic-Free Meat Not Free of Drug-Resistant Bacteria.

If you’re paying premium prices for pesticide- and antibiotic-free meat, you might expect that it’s also free of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not so, according to a new study. The prevalence of one of the world’s most dangerous drug-resistant microbe strains is similar in retail pork products labeled “raised without antibiotics” and in meat from conventionally raised pigs, researchers have found.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a drug-resistant form of the normally harmless S. aureus bacterium, kills 18,000 people in the United States every year and sickens 76,000 more. The majority of cases are linked to a hospital stay, where the combination of other sick people and surgical procedures puts patients at risk. But transmission also can happen in schools, jails, and locker rooms (and an estimated 1.5% of Americans carry MRSA in their noses). All of this has led to a growing concern about antibiotic use in agriculture, which may be creating a reservoir of drug-resistant organisms in billions of food animals around the world.

Tara Smith, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa College of Public Health in Iowa City who studies the movement of staph bacteria between animals and people, wondered whether meat products might be another mode of transmission. For the new study, published this month in PLoS ONE, she and colleagues bought a variety of pork products—395 packages in all—from 36 different stores in two big pig farming states, Iowa and Minnesota, and one of the most densely populated, New Jersey.

In the laboratory, the team mixed meat samples “vigorously” with a bacterial growth medium and allowed any microbes present to grow. MRSA, which appears as mauve-colored colonies on agar plates, was genetically typed and tested for antibiotic susceptibility.

The researchers found that 64.8% of the samples were positive for staph bacteria and 6.6% were positive for MRSA. Rates of contamination were similar for conventionally raised pigs (19 of 300 samples) and those labeled antibiotic-free (seven of 95 samples). Results of genetic typing identified several well-known strains, including the so-called livestock-associated MRSA (ST398) as well as common human strains; all were found in conventional and antibiotic-free meat. (The label “antibiotic-free” is not regulated, and the products were not “certified organic.”)

Smith says she was surprised by the results. In a related investigation, which has not been published, her group tested pigs living on farms and found that antibiotic-free pigs were free from MRSA, whereas the resistant bug is often found on conventional pig farms.

The study reveals an important data point on the path from farm to fork, yet the source of the MRSA on meat products is unknown, Smith says. “It’s difficult to figure out.” Transmission of resistant bugs might occur between antibiotic-using and antibiotic-free operations, especially if they’re near each other, or it could come from farm workers themselves. Another possibility is that contamination occurs at processing plants. “Processing plants are supposed to be cleaned between conventional and organic animals,” she says. “But how well does that actually happen?”

In another recent study, researchers from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, found that beef products from conventionally raised and grass-fed animals were equally likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli. In a second study by the same group, poultry products labeled “no antibiotics added” carried antibiotic-resistant E. coli and Enterococcus (another bacteria that causes invasive disease in humans), although the microbes were less prevalent than on conventionally raised birds.

“The real question is, where is it coming from, on the farm or post-farm?” says Paul Ebner, a food safety expert who led the Purdue studies. And the biggest question of all, he says, “Is it impacting human health?”

“There’s a tremendous amount of interest in this issue—feeding antibiotics to food animals,” says Ellen Silbergeld, an expert on health and environmental impacts of industrial food animal production at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “Thus, determining when amending that practice makes a difference is important.”

“The definitive study would take every bacterium and follow that along until it gets in humans—from food supply to causing a certain disease,” Smith says. “It would be a huge and costly study that no one’s going to do, but that’s what the meat producers” say is missing.” Meanwhile, Smith says she will continue her investigations of MRSA, one potential transmission point at a time.

This item has been corrected. All original references to “organic” have been replaced by “antibiotic-free” because the meat used in this study was not certified organic.

Source: ScienceNOW