Rio 2016’s newest problem: Super bacteria

RIO DE JANEIRO - APRIL 4, 2016: Rio 2016 message made from sand topped by a model of Christ the Redeemer stands on Copacabana Beach in anticipation of the city hosting the Summer Games
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Let’s see here, at the moment, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics are batting about .100 when it comes to resolving extensive social and ecological issues surrounding their fair city and the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. At the present, there’s Zika virus, there’s extensive doping allegations (as is the case with every Olympics, and now there’s news of a fantastic new problem: super bacteria!

As the Olympics draw nearer and nearer with each coming day, there’s a new impending doomsday device/event/debacle that seems to rear its ugly head, with different Olympic groups getting up in arms about some (very real) thing, and the Brazilian government simply scoffs and assures them that nothing could possibly go wrong and that they’re simply over thinking the whole thing! Well with the news of this new super bacteria, most of the Olympic sailing and rowing teams are beginning to voice their concern with the idea of taking to the purportedly “beautiful and pristine” beaches of Rio.

This “super bacteria” has caused boats in Rio’s Guanabara Bay to brown faster than usual, and on top of that, the super bacteria itself is all but impervious to any antibiotic treatment when it comes to culture testing with human DNA. While the origin of the “super bacteria” itself is undetermined, its widely accepted that the “super bacteria” somehow originated in the massive amounts of raw sewage being drained into Guanabara Bay from nearby hospitals.

The lack of clean water quality has been an issue leading up to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics for almost three years now, where in 2013 multiple studies were enacted to try and inspect the water quality. The studies were considered successful in recognizing the substantial lack of clean water, but the Brazilian government has attempted to navigate away from any real recognition of the water problem, by saying “most” of the city’s sewage is treated before it ever reaches the Bay.

The “super bacteria” itself is known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, which is mostly found in coastal waters at beaches like Rio’s Flamengo and Botafogo, two beaches that surround the bay where most of the Olympic sailing competition will occur. Even with that in mind, the Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization have yet to recommend moving the sailing competitions to a different location, citing full faith in the city of Rio de Janeiro’s sewage treatment plants, which treat a whopping 51% of all sewage that comes through their facilities.

While the CRE super bacteria is certainly unsettling when it comes to the health and safety of all the athletes entering the city of Rio de Janeiro this August, they also have to contend civic unrest, lax security around supposedly “safe” areas, and the ever present threat of Zika. All in all, Rio will likely go down as one of the most polarizing and potentially worst Olympics in the history of the event, but here’s to hoping all this magically goes away come August like the Brazilian government seems to believe it will.

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Sean McHugh

Sean considers himself a poor man's polymath and finds solipsism amusing. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @mchugh_sean, or not. That's fine.