Surfers (& Their Rectums) May Hold The Key To Understanding Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Photographed by Maia Harms.
The environmental action group Surfers Against Sewage has launched a campaign alongside researchers from the University of Exeter in the U.K. to learn how drug-resistant bacteria enter the body. They're currently recruiting surfers willing to have their rectums swabbed (insert obligatory Butthole Surfers reference here).

Surfers spend a lot of time in the ocean and ingest 10 times more sea water than your average saltwater swimmer. The idea is that a sample of their gut bacteria will show what's living in the water — and making its way inside of us.

As the concern over antibiotic-resistant bacteria increases, more and more researchers are interested in understanding how these bacteria come to be — not just in environments like hospitals, but in nature as well. The next step is to learn how this kind of bacteria could be passed between people.

Luckily, it seems like those asked to participate have been more than willing to step up and commit to the campaign: "We have received an overwhelming number of expressions of interest from surfers and non-surfers alike," explains Anne Leonard, one of the researchers involved. An added bonus for the volunteers: Not only do they get to help with valuable research, they also get a delightful conversation-starter out of it. "I'm just coming from my routine rectum swab. You?"

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