Take part in ‘Poo-Sticks’ river swimming study!

Posted on 30th April 2024

A new study is recruiting participants to shed light on how wild swimmers might acquire antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as ‘superbugs’, in their gut microbiomes.

What is this study about?

The ‘Poo-Sticks’ research project is aiming to understand how swimmers exposed to human sewage and animal run-off in rivers might be affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Antimicrobial resistance is a major global health challenge, threatening to jeopardise our ability to treat common infections and perform both routine and life-saving medical procedures safely.

Understanding how antibiotic-resistant bacteria, often termed ‘superbugs’, enter human populations is crucial for controlling their spread. Faecally polluted freshwater environments, such as rivers, could be a key source of the microbes, genes, and contaminants that promote bacterial resistance to these important drugs.

Click here to find out more and sign up >>

Who can take part?

PhD student Elitsa Penkova wants to hear from people who swim regularly in rivers, as well as those who prefer sticking to dry land.

Swimmers are encouraged to invite non-swimmers of similar age and gender to take part, with those aged over 16 eligible to sign up – subject to specific criteria.

Find out who can take part along with answers to frequently asked questions.

What does participation involve?

Participants will be asked to provide a faecal sample using a convenient pre-paid postal kit and share information about their recent river activities, dietary habits, and overall lifestyle and health.

By comparing responses between swimmers and non-swimmers, the team are hoping to identify how differences in people’s gut microbiomes might be due to exposure to natural waters affected by faecal pollution.

Click here to find out more and sign up >>

Are you a river Dart swimmer?

Alongside a nationwide call for participants, researchers are also interested in hearing from a targeted group of people who swim in the River Dart, in Devon. If the Dart is your local river, follow the same nationwide link to take part and you will be able to specify your location as part of the sign up process.

This study is part of a larger project led by Elitsa Penkova at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, and builds upon previous work by Dr Anne Leonard which found that surfers were three times more likely to have antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts, compared to people who do not surf.

Elitsa said “We’d love as many people as possible to take part in this study and help to build a clearer picture of the risks associated with recreational swimming. We hope our findings will feed into efforts to develop strategies for mitigating the spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.”

Take part here >>

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