AUG 03, 2016 4:04 PM PDT

The many microbes in Rio's water

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
The Olympic Games are underway in Rio, and Guanabara Bay is host to the sailing events. What’s lurking in those waters has more than a few people worried.

A study conducted by Feevale University in Brazil found that just a few teaspoons of water from Guanabara Bay is enough to make you sick. Many groups are taking this quite seriously, considering more than 1,400 athletes will be involved in water sports based in the bay. (This pales in comparison, however, to the number of tourists and residents who come into contact with the polluted waters on a regular basis.)
 
Rio's Guanabara Bay is highly polluted.

Come on, how bad can it really be? Aren’t these just scare tactics? According to many, the bay is essentially a sewer. With sewage, of course, comes a host of bacteria and viruses with the potential to cause severe disease.

Sewage (that’s code for animal feces) is full of coliform bacteria. E. coli is a coliform, as are species of Klebsiella and Enterobacter. The so-called “coliform index” is often used to rate water quality based on the amount of coliform bacteria present. (I think it’s safe to say that the Guanabara’s index is quite high.)

Species of Bacillus are also reported to be abundant in Guanabara Bay. B. cereus is a well-known cause of food poisoning. This brand of food poisoning is often called “fried rice syndrome” due to its prevalence in Chinese buffets. B. cereus produces a toxin called cereulide that kills cells and induces nausea and vomiting.

Bacteria aren’t the only dangers floating about. The viral load in the bay is reported to be 1.7 million times higher than similar bodies of water from other countries.

The most abundant viruses are adenoviruses and rotaviruses. Adenoviruses cause a wide range of ailments, including diarrhea, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia. Ninety percent of sample sites had dangerously high levels of adenovirus. Rotaviruses cause the “stomach flu”, a gastrointestinal illness characterized by diarrhea (this seems to be a common theme).

Last, but not least, are the algae. Algae are harmless, right? Not always. The large amount of sewage in Guanabara Bay provides nutrients for large algal blooms. These blooms produce toxins and kill fish by using up all of the oxygen.

Perhaps the scariest fact uncovered by the Feevale University study is that even the sand on the beach is chock-full of potentially dangerous microbes. While bacteria succumb to the sunlight and heat, viruses tend to be a bit more resistant.
 
 
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
SEP 07, 2020
Microbiology
How THC Can Help Relieve a Respiratory Disorder
SEP 07, 2020
How THC Can Help Relieve a Respiratory Disorder
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) occurs when fluid builds up in the sacs in the lungs that hold air, and the l ...
SEP 13, 2020
Microbiology
Amazing Images of the Pandemic Virus SARS-CoV-2
SEP 13, 2020
Amazing Images of the Pandemic Virus SARS-CoV-2
Researchers in the lab of Camille Ehre, Ph.D. at the UNC School of Medicine have created amazing images of the pandemic ...
SEP 22, 2020
Cardiology
Mosquito-Borne Illnesses are Linked to Stroke
SEP 22, 2020
Mosquito-Borne Illnesses are Linked to Stroke
Mosquitoes are major disease vectors; they are considered the world's deadliest animal because they kill so many people.
OCT 25, 2020
Microbiology
Over Time, Plague Infections Spread Faster
OCT 25, 2020
Over Time, Plague Infections Spread Faster
From the time of the Black Death, around 1348 and the Great Plague of 1665, epidemics of plague occurred in Europe. Rese ...
NOV 14, 2020
Microbiology
The Structure of a Bacteriophage DNA Tube is Revealed
NOV 14, 2020
The Structure of a Bacteriophage DNA Tube is Revealed
Some viruses only infect bacteria; they care called bacteriophages or phages for short. As antibiotic-resistant bacteria ...
DEC 03, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
7 Considerations When Purchasing a Microvolume UV-Vis Spectrophotometer
DEC 03, 2020
7 Considerations When Purchasing a Microvolume UV-Vis Spectrophotometer
It all started with the Thermo Scientific™ NanoDrop™ 1000 as the first microvolume UV-Vis spectrophotometer, ...
Loading Comments...