E. coli research could prevent unnecessary beach closings

Posted on Medical Xpress:

New research may give health officials more accurate tools when deciding whether to close beaches.

One of the longstanding methods officials use for those decisions is the measurement of E. coli bacteria levels. Higher levels can lead to beach closings because it’s a warning sign of recent fecal pollution, which may carry harmful bacteria, viruses or protozoa.

But researchers have discovered that E. coli – short for Escherichia coli – may survive and proliferate in beach sand independent of pollution events. These “naturalized” E. coli populations falsely inflate measurement levels, resulting in beach closings due to pollution that’s not actually present.

The research was performed by Natalie Rumball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences. It was funded by Wisconsin Sea Grant. The work was presented June 4, 2017, at the American Society for Microbiology’s annual meeting

E coli itself is not a public health risk. In fact,

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