Do you find yourself swimming through sewage contaminated water at least three times a month?
Then scientists from the University of Exeter Medical School want get to know you. Intimately.
In a partnership with the UK campaign group Surfers Against Sewage, Beach Bums (who said scientists didn't have a sense of humour?) is the name of a new study looking to examine how surfers exposed to human sewage and diffuse pollution in seawater might be affected by antibiotic resistant bacteria.
But the pun-tastic name works on another level - in order to study the affects of the bacteria, they're looking for a test sample of surfers and non-surfers willing to supply them with a rectal swab.
"In the first project of its kind, the Beach Bums study wants to recruit 150 surfers and bodyboarders who surf at least three times a month," reads a statement on the Surfers Against Sewage site. "The swabs will give researchers an insight into the microbes that are colonising participant’s guts and they are hoping that by comparing samples from those who regularly spend time in seawater with those who don’t, they’ll be able to build a clearer picture of how antibiotic resistance in the environment can affect people."
Despite the study's jovial title, its subject matter is of vital importance to medical research: microbes are capable of mutating, becoming immune to the antibiotics used to treat them in something of a biological arms race, rendering us incapable of treating some common infections. Such is the magnitude of the problem that the government recently called on the global pharmaceutical industry to create a £1.3bn innovation fund into new antibiotics research.
"We know that surfers regularly swallow lots more seawater than other beach users - around 170 ml per session, which is more than 10 times that of sea swimmers," said Anne Leonard, one of the researchers leading the study. "We’ve already shown that this water may contain antibiotic resistant bacteria but we have no idea how this might affect the microbes that live in our guts, or how it could impact upon health."
If you fit the bill of catching waves at least three times a month and wish to take part in the study, you can register your details with firstname.lastname@example.org. You'll then be sent a swab kit and a short questionnaire, and could potentially help scientists understand just how much harm we're doing to ourselves and our oceans. Get surfing and swabbing.