Researchers from the University of Exeter are looking for wild swimmers to help with two studies into water pollution.

One project, called ‘Poo-sticks’, will look at whether people who regularly swim in rivers and lakes are more susceptible to antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs. The other study, called BlueAdapt, will look at people who go in the sea to find out if apps that forecast water quality can reduce illness related to pollution.

Participants in the Poo-Sticks project will be asked to provide a faecal sample and share information about their recent swimming activities, dietary habits and overall lifestyle and health. These will be compared with non-swimmers and researchers hope the responses will help them find out if pollution makes a difference to people’s gut bacteria.

‘A lot of people carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts, yet they’re completely unaware of it. But if bacteria causing an infection are resistant to antibiotics, then the treatment won’t work, which may lead to more severe illness,’ explained PhD student Elitsa Penkova who is leading the project. ‘This is a major issue, and we hope our findings will help inform strategies for reducing the spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria.’

In the BlueAdapt study, researchers are asking users of the Surfers Against Sewage Safer Seas and Rivers Service app to complete a survey. They want to discover if access to the latest pollution forecasts and alerts changes how swimmers behave and reduces preventable illnesses.

‘Our aim is to provide evidence that can inform decision-making to reduce risk to water users and inform change to safeguard our natural environment,’ said Professor Will Gaze from the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health. ‘This research is timely as we are seeing a steep increase in antibiotic resistant infections and is of particular concern given the increased attention the quality of our river and coastal water is currently receiving.’

River swimmers who are interested in taking part in the ‘Poo-Sticks’ study can visit -

Coastal swimmers, surfers, and paddlers who are interested in taking part in the BlueAdapt survey should go to -