healthHealth and Medicine

Scientists Want To Swab Surfers' Butts To Assess Antibiotic Resistance Risk

guest author image

Aamna Mohdin

Guest Author

411 Scientists Want To Swab Surfers' Butts To Assess Antibiotic Resistance Risk
GaudiLab via Shutterstock

Scientists are getting a bit anal in their fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. ‘Beach Bums’ is a unique project that sees British scientists teaming up with ‘Surfers Against Sewage’ to take rectal swabs from volunteers and get to the bottom of the effect of marine pollution on human health. 

Lead researcher Anne Leonard said in a statement that they’re focusing on surfers, as they consume 10 times more seawater than other swimmers. They are calling on 150 surfers and bodyboarders to get behind the study. The research team, from the University of Exeter, are asking healthy adults who surf or bodyboard at least three times a month to not only take part in the study, but also recruit someone who doesn’t surf.


The study will then compare the samples of those who spend a lot of time in the water with those who don’t. Researchers hope the swabs will give them a better understanding of how seawater, which has already been shown to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria, affects the microbes that colonize our guts.

Andy Cummins, campaigns director at Surfers Against Sewage, said in a statement: “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 want to build a clearer picture of the risks people face when entering the water, so we can ensure our seas are safe for everyone to enjoy.”

Antibiotic resistance, which has been on the rise in the last few decades, is one of the most significant threats to public health. The World Health Organization has previously called on “all government sectors and society” to act on this growing problem. As a greater number of microbes become immune to antibiotics, researchers warn it will become even more difficult to treat common infections.  

The BBC reports that U.S. President Obama has recently launched a five-year action plan to reduce antibiotic use. To effectively deal with antibiotic resistance, a U.K. government review has called on the global pharmaceutical industry to invest £1.3 billion ($1.98 billion) into research.


Volunteers who live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland can register by giving their details to Surfers Against Sewage []. They will be provided with a Beach Bums kit, which will allow them to take butt swabs and also fill in a questionnaire. All data provided will remain confidential.  


healthHealth and Medicine
  • tag
  • antibiotic resistance,

  • surfers,

  • marine pollution