A group of Brazilian scientists has detected a drug-resistant bacteria growing off some of Rio de Janeiro’s most stunning beaches, in research being published a month before the city hosts the 2016 Olympic Games.
According to lead researcher Renata Picao, the “super bacteria” entered the city’s waterways when sewage coming from local hospitals got channeled into the bay.
“We have been looking for ‘super bacteria’ in coastal waters during a one-year period in five beaches,” Picao told CNN during a visit to her lab. “We found that the threats occur in coastal waters in a variety of concentrations and that they are strongly associated with pollution.”
The samples were collected between 2013 and 2014. The superbug found was carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.
Picao said there is no reason to believe the levels have changed because raw sewage continues to flow into many waterways. She said the next step is to test the impact these bacteria can have when humans come in contact with them in coastal waters.
The news comes as Rio prepares to host hundreds of thousands of athletes and tourists during next month’s Summer Olympics.
Among the beaches flagged were Flamengo and Botafogo, which border the bay where Olympic sailors are scheduled to compete.
“It’s a nice sailing area but every time you get some water in your face, it feels like there’s some alien enemy entering your face,” German Paralympic sailor Heiko Kroger said during a recent visit to Rio. “I keep my nose and my lips closed.”
Kroger believes the super bacteria may have caused a severe skin infection in one of his teammates during recent training.
Picao said she believes the city’s fragile sanitation infrastructure is responsible for the presence of the super bacteria.
Despite health concerns and it being only a month until the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, neither Picao nor international Olympic authorities recommend moving the sailing venue.
Trouble ahead of Rio Olympics
The Rio Games are scheduled to begin on August 5, but with a month to go safety and financial issues continue to plague the international event.
An Australian athlete was mugged close to her hotel, a local hospital designated for tourists was the scene of a fierce gun battle and fears over the Zika virus have led several elite athletes to pull out.
Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes told CNN earlier this week the state was doing a terrible job in regard to security in the weeks before the Games. “It’s completely failing at its work of policing and taking care of people,” he said.
Paes on Tuesday told reporters that Rio was “far from being perfect,” but that the city is being transformed for the event.
Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, said Tuesday that the city was ready to start the Games.
“They will be a maximum success in this beautiful city of ours,” Nuzman said.