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Beaches 'hot spots' for antibiotic-resistant bacteria after rainfall

Tuesday, October 1st 2019, 3:59 pm - The study was published last month.

A new, two-year study has found elevated levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (AbR) around some beaches in Sydney, Australia following rainfall, suggesting stormwater, sewage, and urban-waste infrastructure like pipes may help AbR spread into coastal waters.

Scientists looked at 31 AbR genes and found "large increases" of the genes in coastal seawater immediately after rain.

"The study provides new insights into the timing and mechanisms for the input of AbR bacteria in urban beach environments, regularly used by humans for recreational activities," Dr. Ric Carney, the lead author of the study who conducted the research as part of his Ph.D. in climate change at The University of Technology (UTS), said in a statement.

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"Our results indicate that some bacteria present within urban waste streams carry AbR genes, which are subsequently washed into natural marine environments via storm-water outlets."

Lead researcher Professor Justin Seymour of the UTS climate change cluster says that while the findings "highlight the potential risk" of human exposure, the health risks remain "undefined":

"However, our findings really reinforce the messages from authorities to avoid swimming in the ocean and other waterways after heavy rainfall," he says.

"This is a global issue that will impact any urbanized coastal region, and highlights the often overlooked environmental consequences of high levels of antibiotic use by human populations."

The paper was published last month in Water Research.

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