Call it the most literal “beach bum” study ever.
Occasionally in science, the topic of your research and the perfect subjects in which to study it correlate in unique ways, case in point — surfers and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. More specifically, surfer’s colons. Yes, even Vinnie’s.
It makes sense, after you (unfortunately) think about it. Surfers swallow a LOT of seawater, and that water contains a lot of bacteria, which all go to live in their bowels. A few (gulp) rectal swaps later, and you have a great idea of what sorts of infectious little bugs are living in our coastal seawater.
“We know that surfers regularly swallow lots more seawater than other beach users – around 170 ml [nearly 6 ounces] per session, which is more than 10 times that of sea swimmers,” said Anne Leonard, one of the researchers leading the study with the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, and Surfers Against Sewage
“We’ve already shown that this water may contain antibiotic resistant bacteria but we have no idea how this might affect the microbes that live in our guts, or how it could impact upon health,” Leonard said.
“So we’re asking healthy adults who surf or bodyboard at least 3 times a month to take part in a study that will shed much needed light on the effects of marine pollution.”
They want 150 surfers and bodyboarders who surf three times a month or more.
The rectal swabs will be compared with those who don’t surf to see what is colonizing in our intestines.
Andy Cummins, Campaigns Director at Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Whilst water quality has improved dramatically in the last 20 years, coastal waters can still be contaminated by sewage from both animals and humans, introducing billions of potentially harmful bacteria into the ocean environment. We want to build a clearer picture of the risks people face when entering the water, so we can ensure our seas are safe for everyone to enjoy.”
To participate, unfortunately, you have to live in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, but maybe you could extend a vacation for a few months and provide some samples.
Volunteers can register with Surfers Against Sewage at email@example.com