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A small fraction of Escherichia coli floating at the surface of Britain’s coastal waters are resistant to antibiotics, researchers from the University of Exeter reported March 29 at the Society for General Microbiology’s Annual Conference in Birmingham, England.
Sampling 97 sites around England and Wales in 2012, the team found that 15 contained E. coli that was resistant to third-generation cephalosporins, a class of antibiotics used to treat everything from ear infections to gonorrhea. On average, only about 0.12 percent of the E. coli found at these sites was drug-resistant.
That number might seem low, but it represents an overlooked exposure risk for aquatic sport enthusiasts — depending on how much seawater they swallow. Surfers and swimmers, the researchers estimate, have the highest risk of exposure to such superbugs.