Scientists have issued a stark warning after deadly bacteria was discovered in bird poo at a river beauty spot in the UK.
The health warning comes after experts found 21% of wild faeces collected at the River Cam in Cambridgeshire contained forms of the Pseudomonas bacteria.
Researchers discovered that the bacteria are resistant to at least one of five antibiotics used on them with three quarters being multidrug-resistant.
The bacteria, which is potentially lethal to humans, was found after experts gathered 115 samples of bird poo along a ten-mile stretch of the river over the period of two years.
Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) have now urged wildlife lovers to take extreme care with their hygiene when visiting the popular spot.
Joana GC Rodrigues, associate lecturer in Life Sciences at ARU said: “The results from our study highlight the importance of basic personal hygiene, such as washing our hands after being outdoors, due to the risk of cross-contamination.
“We already know that more than 60% of human infections each year are attributable to zoonotic diseases, which are diseases passed from animals to humans, and our findings demonstrate the importance of identifying and monitoring potential pathogen ‘reservoirs’, including populations of wild birds."
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Ms Rodrigues added: "The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the emergence of resistance due to the overuse of antibiotics.
"Therefore, it is extremely important that everyone follows medical advice about when to take medication and for how long, in order to preserve their effectiveness.”
The study, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, showed the presence of the Pseudomonas bacteria in over a fifth of samples collected (21%).
Of the 115 samples, 24 contained the presence of Pseudomonas bacteria.
Pseudomonas is a large group of bacteria that can be naturally present in the environment, and some of which are associated with animal and human diseases.
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Higher rates of Pseudomonas bacteria are normally associated with disease outbreaks in animal populations, and previous similar studies carried out in Spain and Slovakia have reported rates of between 2-10%.
Pseudomonas bacteria may potentially be passed on to humans through cross-contamination.
One of the samples contained Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is known to cause illnesses ranging from easy-to-treat ear infections to fatal lung infections and typically affects those with a weakened immune system.
In the UK, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the second most common hospital infection and approximately a quarter of people die from the illness.
According to the O’Neill report, commissioned by the UK government and the Wellcome Trust, antibiotic resistance is a major global crisis that is causing 700,000 deaths annually. Unless tackled, this is estimated to increase to 10 million by 2050.
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