Rio Olympics: Super Bacteria Found In Brazil’s Olympic Venues

The fate of the upcoming Rio Olympics seems to be going from bad to worse as reports surface that five of the major venues slated to host Olympic events have tested positive for drug-resistant “super bacteria.” The super bacteria was found off Rio beaches scheduled to host Olympic swimming competitions and in a lagoon that is expected to be the venue for rowing and canoeing events when the August 5 Olympic Games begin.

The news about the super bacteria found in Rio’s waters comes amid the escalating concern about the ever- spreading Zika virus and domestic civil unrest in Brazil.

As The New York Post reports, the news that super bacteria has been found in multiple Rio venues was originally cited in a Reuters report that referenced two separate (unpublished) academic studies. The super bacteria discovery doesn’t solely impact the Rio Olympics; some of the areas that tested positive are among Rio’s most popular and crowded tourist destinations.

Under normal circumstances, the super bacteria microbes now threatening the Rio Olympics are only found in hospitals, and the super bacteria found in Rio is also super concerning to experts because of its antibiotic resistance.

The discovery of the super bacteria in Rio’s waterways isn’t new, according to reports. Rather, the discovery was reportedly made late in 2014. The super bacteria, which is classified by the CDC as an “urgent public health threat,” was found off one beach in Guanabara Bay. The beach in question is scheduled to shortly become home to sailing and wind-surfing competitions during the Rio Olympics.

The first of the two newer studies to investigate (and confirm) the presence of the super bacteria in Rio’s water was reviewed in September, 2015, by some prestigious minds. Namely, the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego. The review indicated that the super bacteria was confirmed to be present at five of Rio’s premier beaches. One of those beaches is the world-famous Copacabana, soon to be home to open-water and triathlon swimming events during the Rio Summer Olympic Games.

The remaining four Rio beaches confirmed to be hosting super bacteria are Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo, and Flamengo.

The super bacteria in question is a terribly virulent and nasty little bug. It is known to cause almost-impossible to treat infections in multiple organs and organ systems, including the pulmonary system, the GI system, the urinary tract, bloodstream infections, and even meningitis (inspection of the spinal and inter-cranial fluid). In up to half of the infections caused by the super bacteria, patient fatalities occur.

A second study indicates the presence of the super bacteria in even more of Rio’s busy and sewage-laden waterways.

It has been postulated that the super bacteria infections in Rio’s waterways were caused by hospital waste (as well has residential waste) being poured directly into Rio’s storm drains and natural waterways over the decades. In recent years, the unsanitary behaviors have contributed to the spread of the super bacteria in Rio.

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Rio’s metro area is home to a whopping 12 million people, and the super bacteria’s spread can be traced directly back to insufficient basic sanitation, says Renata Picao, famed Rio university professor.

“These bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea.”

When Rio bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the city made repeated promises to clean up the city’s waterways. Unfortunately, after being awarded South America’s first Olympic Games, Rio has failed miserably at keeping its promises.

By most accounts, the water systems in Rio are actually getting worse at the cusp of the upcoming Olympic Games.

What do you think? When combined with the social unrest and continued spread of the Zika virus, is Rio’s contaminated water enough to pull the plug on the Games? Or are super bacteria infested waterways more than enough reason (all on its own) to cancel the Rio Olympics and/or relocate the Games to a safer venue for athletes and attendees alike?

[Image via Shutterstock]