How an antibiotic resistant bacteria is raising concerns for the 2016 Summer Olympics

About a month ago we wrote about an antibiotic resistant bacteria called MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylolococcus aureus, and gave an example of an athlete who had contracted the bacteria.  There is now another antibiotic resistant bacteria making international headlines and it is once again a relationship with sports that is bringing it to the forefront of our attention.  Recent reports out of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil show that an antibiotic resistant “superbug” has been found in the Cariorca River that runs through Rio and empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the famous Flamengo Beach.

This report from scientists at the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz is particularly concerning as the bacteria have been found close to the Marina da Gloria, site of the 2016 Olympic sailing competitions. This bacterium is of the Enterobacteriaceae family and produces an enzyme called KPC that is resistant to most forms of antibiotics.  This bacterium is usually only found in hospitals, so how is that it was found in three separate sites of the Cariorca River?

Well, its not yet clear how the bacteria made its way to the river, but the scientists did note that the bacteria were not found before the river made it’s way through town. This leads to the belief that it was likely sewage and waste from hospitals that transmitted the bacteria into the environment. There are several hospitals along the river and fecal matter in the sewage very well could have been host to the bacteria. Officials in Rio had stated their goal was to reduce the sewage and waste by 80% but officials have recently acknowledged that this number was not going to be reached in preparation of the 2016 Olympic games.

Like other bacteria, it is possible that someone who comes in contact with the bacteria may not get sick from it but they could carry it and pass it on to someone else. Those who do contract this bacterium will need to be hospitalized and studies have shown that KPC producing bacteria result in a 50% mortality rate. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a major concern in today’s society and something that we feel does not get enough attention.  A recent report out of the UK that was commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron and supported by the Wellcome Trust found that antimicrobial resistance resulted in approximately 700,000 deaths a year and this number was going to increase to 10 million people a year by 2050.  This is a staggering figure and is one of the fastest rising figures in the cause of deaths around the world. 

Almost every two years there is some major health concern at the Olympics. At the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City we saw influenza running rampant, in 2010 at the winter games in Vancouver, Canada there was a measles outbreak, and earlier this year in Sochi we had stray dogs running loose. Now, we have antibiotic resistant bacteria on the loose in Rio and it will be interesting to see how officials in Brazil get this under control in preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics. 

This is our last post for the week. We hope everyone has a happy holiday season and we will be back with another post on Monday.  

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The views expressed in the blog are solely those of the author of the blog and not necessarily the American Microbiome Institute or any of our scientists, sponsors, donors, or affiliates.