As if there aren’t already enough concerns about the Rio Olympics, a team of scientists from Brazil have announced that a drug-resistant ‘superbug’ bacteria has been found at popular beach destinations in the region. The news is troublesome for many reasons, not the least of which is the 2016 Olympic Games planned for the city this summer which will bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors, potentially exposing them to the drug-resistant bacteria.
In a statement to CNN, Renata Picao, the study’s lead researcher, said, “We have been looking for ‘super bacteria’ in coastal waters during a one-year period in five beaches. We found that the threats occur in coastal waters in a variety of concentrations and that they are strongly associated with pollution.” That pollution, in particular, refers to sewage runoff from hospitals that ended up making its way into the bay.
The researchers believe a poor sanitation system has allowed hospital waste to make its way into Guanabara Bay, and possibility other water bodies, where it eventually makes its way onto the beaches where brave souls venture for fun. Though the percentage of Rio sewage being treated has increased greatly over the past handful of years, it still only presently sits at 51%. That leaves a lot of potential runoff to pollute the city’s waters.
What kind of risks the bacteria pose to humans isn’t clear at this point, and there’s no recommendations to move the Olympics’ sailing events. However, at least one team training for the sailing event has come forward stating that a team member developed a skin rash that is believed to have resulted from exposure to the polluted water. Critics of the summer Olympics location have also cited concerns about zika virus exposure and crime rates in the city.