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E. coli Bacteria on the Beach?

Beach sand and surf may harbor E. coli bacteria, and
those bacteria could shut down some beaches, a new study shows.

The researchers included Michael Sadowsky, PhD, a professor in the
University of Minnesota's department of soil, water, and climate.

They studied water and sand from the Duluth Boat Club Beach in Duluth,
Minn., on the banks of Lake Superior. That beach is "frequently closed in
summer due to high counts of [E. coli] bacteria," write the

During 2004 and 2005, the researchers took samples of the beach's sand and
surf. They found more than 3,500 strains of E. coli bacteria.

Only one of those strains might be a health threat to humans, Sadowsky's
team notes.

Leading sources of the bacteria appear to be a nearby wastewater treatment
plant and migrating waterfowl such as terns, geese, and gulls in the summer and

Waterfowl may also carry other bacteria, such as salmonella and
campylobacter bacteria, according to Sadowsky and colleagues. But they didn't
study those bacteria.

"The potential health risks associated with waterfowl-borne bacteria
found at beaches needs to be investigated in the future," the researchers

Their findings appear in the journal Environmental Science &


  • What do you worry about at the beach ?
    Talk about it on WebMD's message boards.


By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
B)2005-2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved

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