5 Pathogens That Can Hide in the Beach Sand

A trip to the beach and lying on the sand look like the perfect way to spend a summer weekend. But remember that various kinds of organisms may hide in the beach sand. Moreover, some of them can be quite terrible. Most microbes hiding in the sand are harmless to people but not all. Below are five pathogens that are dangerous to humans. 

1. Nematodes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some types of parasitic roundworms which usually infect cats and dogs can be transmitted to humans. This occurs when infected animals defecate into the sand with nematode eggs. A person can become infected if he/she walks barefoot or lies in that place.

Live Science reports a Canadian couple who discovered nematodes under the skin after a romantic walk along the Caribbean beach. But it’s not all bad. Since humans are atypical hosts for hookworms, parasites usually don’t live in the human body for more than six weeks.

2. Staphylococcus

Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a special type of staph bacteria that can cause skin infections and are extremely resistant to several antibiotics. Some people may be holders of staph bacteria and MRSA without symptoms. But in other cases, for example, when a person gets a cut or wound on the skin, the bacteria cause an infection.

A 2012 study published in the journal Water Research analyzed water and sand samples from three California beaches. As a result, staph bacteria were present in 53% of the samples, MRSA bacteria in 2.7% of the samples. Scientists say that a shower after swimming in the sea can provide reliable protection against staphylococcal infection.

3. Fungus

Fungi that cause skin and nail infections, according to experts from the American Society of Microbiology (ASM), can spread through direct contact with people, animals or sand.

Top podiatrists say that fungi can get even through the smallest foot injuries and cause athlete’s foot (mycosis) and foot itching. Other fungal species found on beaches include some Aspergillus species. They can cause lung infections. 

4. Gastric Bacteria

Beach sand may also contain many bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis or gastric infections accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

A 2012 study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that the sand from the 53 California beaches contained Escherichia coli and Enterococcus (bacteria commonly found in the human intestines), as well as Salmonella and Campylobacter ( bacteria that often cause food poisoning).

5. Roundworms

According to ASM representatives, dog-friendly beaches contain Toxocara canis (a roundworm which lives in dogs), a parasitic roundworm that people can get by accidentally swallowing soil containing the feces of an infected dog. The cycle is quite complicated but if a person, for example, wipes the mouth with a napkin that was laying on the sand but looked clean, he/she may easily get infected.

However, the risk of getting infected with Toxocara canis on a sandy beach is unknown. A French study conducted in the 1990s showed that T. canis is a common beach parasite. But a new Australian study claims to have found no T. canis eggs in more than 250 samples from dog-friendly beaches and parks.

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