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The Surfer's Ome

The University of California, San Diego's Cliff Kapono is amassing microbial samples from surfers around the world to gauge the extent to which oceans change those communities and help spread antibiotic resistance, the New York Times reports.

Kapono has collected samples from surfers' heads, mouths, and navels, among other body parts, as well as from their boards, the Times adds.

"A lot of the research of the transmission of resistant bacteria has focused on the role of the healthcare environment," Anne Leonard from the University of Exeter, who is also studying bacterial colonization among surfers, tells the Times. "What's less well studied is the role that natural environments play."

As coastal waters can be contaminated by sewage, surfers there might be more likely to obtain antibiotic resistant strains.

The Times notes that Kapono has only just begun to delve into the 500 samples he's collected. But so far, he and his colleagues haven't found any evidence that surfers have picked up antibiotic-resistant bacteria from the ocean. However, they have noticed that samples from surfers, even those who hailed from different parts of the world, contained similar metabolites, which they said could reflect similar diets or lifestyle, or reflect the time surfers spend in salt water.