Surfers, have your bum swabbed for science

Bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘beach bum’ this summer, and swab your bum to investigate the bacteria in seawater.

If, like me, you watched The Island with Bear Grylls last month, then you were probably horrified by the amount of plastic debris that was stranded on beaches in the Pacific.

Marine debris is a huge problem worldwide.

Plastic bottles, bags, toothbrushes and tampons, were strewn across these golden shores. Hardly the image idyllic image you think of when someone says ‘paradise’.

Clinging to the litter is bacteria, which scientists believe is resistant to antibiotics.

As you will know if you’ve ever thrown yourself upon a surfboard- surfers tend to ingest quite a lot of water, a whopping 170ml per session apparently, which is ten times more than that of sea swimmers.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are teaming up with scientists at Exeter University to compare surfers’ rectal samples with people don’t regularly spend time in the sea,  to learn more about how these superbugs in the environment affect people.

According to lead researcher Anne Leonard from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at Exeter University, the study will help to indicate how these superbugs are affecting the digestive system of surfers.

Andy Cummins from SAS said, “We have been laughing about swab parties going on around the country, 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.”

They need 300 volunteers who surf at least three times a month, and are asking each participant to recruit someone who doesn’t surf.

This is a first for the surfing community, as never before have they got directly involved in a scientific study. ‘Beach Bums’, is the first UK project of its kind and is the first time surfers have got directly involved with a scientific study, with researchers from European Centre for Environment and Human Health collaborating with Surfers Against Sewage.

So what you waiting for? Get your ass in line.  

To participate, volunteers should register their details  and must live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland*. They will be provided with a Beach Bums kit to collect their samples and also asked to complete a short questionnaire. All data collected will be treated as strictly confidential.  (*There are restrictions in Scotland preventing  sending these types of samples.)


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