Jun 22, 2016
Drug Resistant Bacteria Threatens Olympics

Scientists have found drug-resistant “super bacteria” on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that will potentially pose a threat to athletes who will compete in water-related events for the Olympic Games, which start on Aug. 5.

According to Reuters, the bacteria were first identified as a threat when a study was conducted in 2014. Two other studies were more recently completed. The first, which was reviewed in September, detects antibiotic-resistant microbes at five of Rio de Janeiro’s beaches, while the second, which will be submitted next month, found super bacteria genes in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in the heart of Rio and in a river that empties into Guanabara Bay.

Renata Picao, a professor for Rio de Janeiro’s federal university who was the study’s lead researcher, said Rio De Janeiro’s poor sanitation helped give rise to the problem.

“These bacteria should not be present in these waters,” Picao said. “They should not be present in the sea.”

Infection from the super bacteria are difficult to treat, with roughly half of all patients dying. Valerie Harwood, who studies water contamination and antibiotics-resistant bacteria at the University of South Florida, said the super bacteria genes that resist drugs are not harmful on their own, but bacteria can consume them.

“Those genes are like candy,” Harwood said. “They are organic molecules and they’ll be eaten up by other bacteria, other organisms. That’s where the danger is–if a person then ingests that infected organism–because it will make it through their gastrointestinal tract and potentially make someone ill.”

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