Quantcast

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Found in Rio de Janeiro Waterways Ahead of Olympics

Science

Evidence of antibiotic-resistant "super bacteria" has been found at several Olympic sites in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including waters that will host the swimming portion of the triathlon and in the lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete this summer.

Sugar Loaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo credit: Halley Pacheco de Oliveira, Wikimedia commons

Two studies have connected five beaches—Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Flamengo—and Rio de Janeiro's Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon to the superbug bacteria, Reuters reported.

Copacabana, which had microbes present in 10 percent of the water samples studied, will be the site of open-water and triathlon swimming events. Flamengo, which had microbes in 90 percent of the water samples, will host sailing competitions. The lagoon, which is seen by scientists as the breeding ground for the bacteria, will host rowing and canoe events, according to Reuters.

Scientists say the super bacteria can cause hard-to-treat urinary, gastrointestinal, pulmonary and bloodstream infections, which contribute to death in up to half of infected patients. Meningitis has also been linked to exposure to the superbug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported antibiotic-resistant infections usually "require prolonged and/or costlier treatments, extend hospital stays, necessitate additional doctor visits and healthcare use and result in greater disability and death."

MCR-1 gene, which created antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Photo credit: CDC

The effect the microbes will have on athletes and people that come in contact with them depends on an individual's immune system. Reuters reported:

Five scientists consulted by Reuters said the immediate risk to people's health when faced with super bacteria infection depends on the state of their immune systems. These bacteria are opportunistic microbes that can enter the body, lie dormant, then attack at a later date when a healthy person may fall ill for another reason.
Super bacteria infect not only humans but also otherwise-harmless bacteria present in the waters, turning them into antibiotic-resistant germs.
Harwood said the super bacteria genes discovered in the Olympic lagoon were probably not harmful if swallowed by themselves: they need to be cocooned inside of a bacterium.
"Those genes are like candy. They are organic molecules and they'll be eaten up by other bacteria, other organisms," Harwood said. "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."

The quality of Rio's water has been just one of many concerns facing the Olympic host city—many athletes were already questioning participating in the olympics due to the Zika virus outbreak. These studies are huge disappointments for everyone involved because part of Rio de Janeiro's 2009 bid for the Olympics included a promise to clean the city's waterways, according to Reuters.

Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo credit: Bisonlux, Flickr

Renata Picao, a professor at Rio's federal university and lead researcher of the beach study, told Reuters the contamination of Rio's famous beaches was the result of a lack of basic sanitation in the metropolitan area of 12 million people.

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

The spread of the suberbug bacteria is aided by waste from hospitals and households entering storm drains, rivers and streams crossing the city.

The study involving microbes on Rio's beaches was reviewed in September 2015 at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego, California.

The second study, about Rio's lagoon, was conducted by Brazilian federal government's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation lab. It will be published in July by the American Society of Microbiology.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

Climate Change Linked to Spread of Zika Virus

Chile's Salmon Industry Using Record Levels of Antibiotics to Combat Bacterial Outbreak

Lake Erie's Toxic Algae Bloom Forecast for Summer 2016

Scientists Warn That You Could Be Inhaling Chemically-Laden Microplastic Particles

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Baby orangutan and mother orang utan seen walking in Jakarta, Indonesia. Aprison Photography / Moment / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

To be a good wildlife photographer, you need an expertly trained eye. But good ears help, too.

Read More
Worker spraying toxic pesticides or insecticides on corn plantation. D-Keine / E+ / Getty Images

Poor people in developing countries are far more likely to suffer from exposure to pesticides classified as having high hazard to human health or the environment, according to new data that Unearthed analyzed.

Read More
Sponsored
Power to heat, to cool, to drive the world's industries. Renewables can supply it all. Jason Blackeye / Unsplash

By Paul Brown

Virtually all the world's demand for electricity to run transport and to heat and cool homes and offices, as well as to provide the power demanded by industry, could be met by renewable energy by mid-century.

Read More
Phthalates, a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break, affect health in many ways. Tatyana Tomsickova Photography / Moment / Getty Images

By George Citroner

  • Exposure to phthalates was associated with autism traits in boys (but not girls) between ages 3 and 4 years, according to a new study.
  • However, the risk was diminished in women who took folic acid during their pregnancy.
  • This study is the first to find that folic acid supplements provide a protective effect from phthalates.

Exposure in the womb to a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals called phthalates was associated with autism traits in boys (but not girls) between ages 3 and 4 years, according to a new study.

Read More
A coral and fish community at the Great Barrier Reef, northeast of Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia, on Aug. 28, 2018. Francois Gohier / VWPics / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Researchers released a sobering study this week showing that all of the world's coral reefs may be lost to the climate crisis by 2100.

Read More