Oh, Good, Another Dangerous Thing At The Beach

As if skin cancer, rip tides, and sharks weren’t enough to worry about at the beach. A University of Washington study found the antibiotic-resistant superbug methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA to its friends) in the water of many different Puget Sound beaches.

MRSA infections were once pretty much limited to hospitals, but newer strains have wandered out of the hospitals and have started infecting healthy people in the outside world. Researchers aren’t quite sure, however, what the source of the beach bacteria could be.

Curiously, [lead investigator Marilyn] Roberts says, five of the samples found on the beach and in the sand more closely resembled hospital-acquired MRSA than the bacteria found in the community. Three of the samples, from three beaches 10 miles apart, were virtually identical, she says. “One would think they came from the same source,” Roberts added.

The most likely scenario, she says, is that the source is environmental, not human, but “where all of these organisms are coming from and how they’re getting seeded (on the beaches) is not clear.” Tests of ocean water and sand taken from two beaches in Southern California turned up no Staph aureus at all.

The strains found on the beach were most similar to those found in hospitals. Obviously, these bacteria needed a break from their hectic hospital schedules, and were relaxing at the beach.

MRSA ‘superbug’ found in ocean, public beaches [USA Today]

(Photo: Giant Microbes)