Surfers 3X More Likely to Have Antibiotic-resistant E. coli

LRNmedia interviewed the lead author of a recent study,that found surfers were 3x more likely to have antibiotic-resistant E. coli in their gut to better understand the significance of this research:

[LRN media] What motivated this research?
[Dr. Leonard] In a previous study, we had demonstrated that antibiotic resistant bacteria were present in coastal bathing waters in England and Wales, and that water users (particularly surfers) are at risk of swallowing resistant bacteria. We hypothesised that swallowing water containing resistant bacteria could result in gut colonisation by these resistant bacteria, and that people who enjoy surfing would be at greater risk of having resistant bacteria in their gut compared to people who don’t go in the sea.

[LRN media] How did you study it?
[Dr. Leonard]To find out whether people had resistant bacteria in their gut, we asked volunteers (surfers and people who don’t go in the sea) to collect a small amount of their faeces using a rectal swab. Participants took the samples themselves and sent them in the post to our laboratory. We tested the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in the faecal sample for resistance to a clinically important antibiotic called cefotaxime.

[LRN media] What was your main finding?
[Dr. Leonard] We found that surfers were three times more likely to have E. coli in their gut that are resistant to cefotaxime compared to people who don’t go in the sea.

[LRN media] Why is the research important?
[Dr. Leonard] Our results suggest that water users are at risk of exposure to and colonisation by E. coli that are able to survive and grow in the presence of an important antibiotic which is used in clinical settings to treat serious human infections. Resistant bacteria are found in many settings, and understanding the different ways that people are exposed to resistant bacteria and acquire them, can help us to develop effective strategies to slow the further spread of resistant bacteria.

The study, Exposure to and colonisation by antibiotic-resistant E. coli in UK coastal water users: Environmental surveillance, exposure assessment, and epidemiological study (Beach Bum Survey), was co-authored by Lihong Zhanga, Andrew J. Balfoura, Ruth Garsidea, Peter M. Hawkeyb, Aimee K. Murraya, Obioha C. Ukoumunnec, and William H. Gazea

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