- Ocean swimming changes the skin microbiome, leaving behind new microbial travelers, including members of the Vibrio genus, which includes cholera bacteria.
Why this matters
- Swimmers in this study air-dried and did not rinse, suggesting that rinsing might be a reasonable preventive step, as ocean-related activities are linked to skin and other infections.
- After air drying, all participants had ocean-related bacteria on them even at 24 hours after swimming.
- Vibrio species, the genus that includes cholera bacteria, were identified on every study participant up to 6 hours after swimming.
- Vibrio representation was greater on the human skin than in the ocean (by 10-fold), suggesting that these bacteria might have a specific affinity for skin, say the authors.
- After 24 hours, each participant’s usual microbiota began to dominate.
- The calves of 9 participants were swabbed before and at 10 minutes and 6 and 24 hours after an ocean swim.
- The participants were not using sunscreen, had limited ocean exposure otherwise, and had not bathed in the last 12 hours or taken antibiotics within 6 months.
- Results were presented without peer review at a conference, and the study was quite small.