It’s a well-known fact that surfers talk out of their arses, but scientists launching an investigation into antibiotic-resistant bacteria believe surfers’ bum-holes may be the source of some actually useful information after all.
An innovative study — dubbed “Beach Bums” — aims to gather data from the rectums of UK surfers, which may contain — amongst other things — vital clues as to the effects of marine pollution on human health.
The study will be conducted by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, based at the University of Exeter, in conjunction with environmental action group Surfers Against Sewage. Together they are asking surfers to volunteer by providing them with rectal swabs, following findings that sea-water may contain so-called “superbugs”.
“We know that surfers regularly swallow lots more seawater than other beach users – around 170 ml per session, which is more than ten times that of sea swimmers,” said lead researcher Anne Leonard. That’s just over half a can of Coke, in case you were wondering.
“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.”
An increasing number of bacteria have evolved to develop immunity to antibiotics, and the threat is such that US President Barack Obama recently announced a five-year plan to curb the use of antibiotics in the treatment of humans and animals.
“We have been laughing about swab parties going on around the country,” said Andy Cummins from SAS, “but this is set against the background of a really important project.
“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 will give this data to the scientists, to find out if there is elevated risk of being exposed to antibiotic-resistant microbes for water users. This can give us a more informed approach.”
If you’re a surfer from the UK and are keen to help, or simply wish to be anally probed, you can find more details and sign up here on the SAS website. SAS are looking to recruit 300 surfers from around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Sorry Scotland.