A Case Study Assessing Potential Enteric Zoonotic Pathogen Risks to Beachgoers at a Perth Metropolitan Beach.

Author: Glenn Carter

Carter, Glenn, 2022 A Case Study Assessing Potential Enteric Zoonotic Pathogen Risks to Beachgoers at a Perth Metropolitan Beach., Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering

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Beaches in Australian coastal locations provide popular, inexpensive, and accessible natural resources in which members of the community can engage in a variety of aquatic and land-based leisure or recreational pursuits. While many positive social and health benefits can be attributed to participating in beachgoing activities, potential negative health outcomes from exposure to

biological pathogens introduced through point source processes can also occur. While advancement in wastewater treatment system technologies in developed nations have reduced this health burden somewhat, other contributing sources including via diffuse processes continue to remain largely unexplored in relation to human health impact within the academic literature.

This study examines diffuse contamination from domestic animal sources at recreational marine environments and the potential gastro-intestinal health risks through incidental ingestion exposure for adult beachgoers in Australia. This is achieved through providing a comprehensive overview of current national management guidelines and practices, conducting a systematic literature review and critique of research undertaken within the field. A case study will also be used in assessing adult GI health risks associated with diffuse source contamination exposure, while engaging in recreational beach activities.

Guided by knowledge gaps in the field identified within the systematic literature review, the primary research area of investigation was formulated in addressing the question, ‘Do recreational beach exposures which are also promoted for use by domestic animals (dogs and horses) pose an increased public health risk to beachgoers? A Case Study Assessing Enteric Zoonotic Pathogen Risks at a Perth Metropolitan Beach’.

This topic attempts to address potential human health hazards observed within metropolitan beach locations within Western Australia. A focus is also placed on sources of enteric pathogen contamination introduced to both marine waters and beach sand by domestic animals (dogs and horses), that are permitted access with their owners to beach sites which are also used by families for recreational purposes. This research topic explores areas of investigation which have achieved limited attention previously within the published literature therefore, current findings contribute to unique knowledge insights into GI health outcomes associated with diffuse source microbial contamination in marine settings.

Findings from this study indicate a possible marginal increase in human gastro-intestinal health risk from exposure to zoonotic enteric bacterial pathogens compared with similar protozoan pathogens. Measured against microbial parameters set within current national recreational water guidelines, Campylobacter present in domestic canine faecal contamination of beach sand presented the greatest measure of health risk to adult beachgoers due to a single exposure. Salmonella and protozoan pathogens including Cryptosporidium and Giardia were measured at acceptable levels as defined within the national recreational water guidelines for both dog and horse faecal contamination in both sand and water environments. Caution with the extrapolation of findings from this case study across other marine environments should be considered due to a number of heterogenous factors both considered and excluded within this desktop-based research.

This research topic is intended as a preliminary exploration into potential human health risks upon exposure to enteric pathogens from domestic animals introduced into a recreational marine environment. It is anticipated that findings from this study will contribute towards the ongoing evolution of knowledge, practice, and policy development in supporting public health measures aligned with recreational marine environments nationally and abroad.

Keywords: Recreational water, faecal contamination, dog, horse, beach sand, Campylobacter, health risk, gastrointestinal illness

Subject: Environmental Health thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2022
School: College of Science and Engineering
Supervisor: Harriet Whiley