How seagulls could make us all sick

 

Seagulls on Aussie beaches may be threatening more than your fish and chips - a team of scientists has found the common birds have the potential to cause serious harm to humans.

A team led by Murdoch University has found Australian silver gulls are infected with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria that cause serious infections in humans - such as urinary tract infections and sepsis.

Murdoch University antimicrobial researcher Dr Sam Abraham, who led the investigation, said the problem was widespread.

Seagulls on Australian beaches may be threatening more than your fish and chips.
Seagulls on Australian beaches may be threatening more than your fish and chips.

The paper is released today in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

"Seagulls act as ecological sponges or bio-accumulators and we have earmarked them as a potential reservoir for agents that may cause human disease," he said.

The study revealed more than 20 per cent of seagulls tested around Australia carried bacteria that were resistant to cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, which are commonly used antimicrobial drugs in humans.

Andreas Rakers, 31, and his wife Kerstin Rakers, 30, try to eat fish and chips at Bondi. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts
Andreas Rakers, 31, and his wife Kerstin Rakers, 30, try to eat fish and chips at Bondi. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts

Seabird ecologist Dr Nic Dunlop said this could affect livestock and agriculture produce.

"Humans are now transmitting their pathogens to commensal wildlife around Australia's major cities and these drug resistant microbes are likely to be returned with interest through contaminated surfaces, water and food," Dr Dunlop said.

NSW Department of Primary Industries, the University of Adelaide and the Statens Serum Institut in Demark were also collaborators in the research.

Mason Sia, 6, from the Gold Coast with seagulls. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Mason Sia, 6, from the Gold Coast with seagulls. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Six-year-old Mason Sia loves to feed the seagulls at the beach.

"We love going to the beach on the Gold Coast but Mason makes sure he doesn't touch them. I'm surprised by the research," mum Kirstie said.


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