The bacteria was found on the Rio de Janeiro beaches that will host Olympic swimming events

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated June 14, 2016 03:00 PM
Credit: Luiz Souza/NurPhoto/Getty

There may be more health risks than just the Zika Virus for the athletes competing in the 2016 Olympics.

Scientists have discovered a drug-resistant “super bacteria” off of the Rio de Janeiro beaches where 2016 Olympic swimming events will be held, reported Reuters. The same bacteria was also found in a lagoon that will be the site of rowing and canoe events, come August.

Reuters said that two unpublished academic studies found the presence of microbes on Rio’s showcase beaches. One, reviewed at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy last September, said five of the beaches – including Copacabana, the home of the open-water and triathlon swimming events – had the bacteria.

The second study, which was conducted by the Brazilian federal government’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation lab, found the lagoon bacteria.

The microbe in question can lead to a multitude of symptoms, including urinary tract infections, as well as gastrointestinal, pulmonary and bloodstream infections. It can also cause meningitis, Reuters reported. Risk of infection depends on the state of one’s immune system.

And, although reviewed water samples were from 2013 and 2014, Renata Picao, a professor and the lead researcher of the first study, told Reuters that Rio’s sewage infrastructure has not improved. Rio’s waters are extremely contaminated, as waste from hospitals and households enters rivers and streams due to lack of basic sanitation, Reuters said.

In response, Rio’s environmental agency INEA told Reuters that it adheres to the World Health Organization’s recommendations for testing recreational water safety. Finding super bacteria is not a part of those guidelines.

Earlier in the year, another study found that water at several of the Olympic sites was contaminated with alarmingly high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage.

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The newest revelation is just the latest roadblock on the road to Rio, as numerous athletes have withdrawn from Olympic consideration for fear of Zika.

South Korea has even created custom “anti-Zika” uniforms for its athletes.

Last month, nearly 200 international scientific experts joined together to sign an open document requesting that the Olympics be moved from Rio “in the name of public health.” Yet, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said that there is “no public health reason” to cancel the Olympics.