Wednesday 21 February 2018

Superbug that can cause 'major health problems' found out at two Irish beaches

Superbugs have been found at two beaches in Spideal, Co Galway
Superbugs have been found at two beaches in Spideal, Co Galway

Kathy Armstrong

A superbug with the potential to make people seriously ill has been found at two Irish beaches where raw sewage is pumped into the water.

Experts have found a bacteria that is resistant to most types of antibiotics in the water at two beaches in Spiddal, Co Galway - Tra na mBan and Ceibh an Spideal.

The team from NUI Galway's School of Medicine carried out their research late last year and published their report two weeks ago.

One of the lead researchers Professor Martin Cormican said: " We looked at some fresh water flowing across the beach and two adjacent bathing areas in Galway and we found a type of bacteria that is resistant to most types of antibiotics.

"They're generally known as CPE and this particular type is NDM, it appears that they are coming from sewage that is being discharged into the sea in the vicinity of the bathing area."

Read More: Many diseases 'will soon be untreatable'

Prof Cormican spoke about the dangers posed by these bugs.

He told "If I'm in good health today and I pick up the bug then they probably won't do me much harm.

"They would probably live in my gut and can stay there for a long time, then if down the line I need a transplant or surgery on my gut then they could get into your bloodstream and cause me trouble.

"They're relatively harmless for healthy people most of the time but they can come and live with you and cause you major health problems.

"For most people if these bugs stay in your gut then you will have no symptoms, the risk is really to vulnerable people."

He said that this issue probably isn't just in Galway and said it highlights the hazards posed by raw sewage being pumped into bathing water.

Prof Cormican said: "This is a concern that probably applies in any situation where you have raw sewage being discharged, we just happened to study two particular beaches.

"There's been several people in Ireland who have suffered from very serious infections as a result of this bug.

"We don't have any information about anyone becoming ill after swimming at Spideal beach.

"We know that they are causing problems for people in Ireland but we generally won't know for sure where they picked it up."

Irish Water said in a statement that it is working with Galway County Council to stop the discharge of untreated wastewater at Spiddal, but the solution is not expected to be in place until 2020.

"Irish Water is currently tendering for a design engineer to undertake the detailed design and planning phase of the Spiddal Sewerage Scheme.

It is expected the design and planning phase of the project will take approximately one year. On completion of the detailed design and planning phase, a contractor will be procured to carry out the works. It is anticipated that construction will commence in 2019 and be complete in 2020," the statement said.

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