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Antibiotic bacteria which fight E. coli and other dangerous bugs have been found in the Roman Baths at Bath.

‌Scientists from the University of Plymouth took samples of the water, sediment and bacterial growth from locations including the King’s Spring, where the waters reach around 113F (45C) and the Great Bath, where the temperatures are closer to 86F (30C).

‌Around 300 distinct types of bacteria were discovered of which 15 were active against human pathogens including E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Shigella flexneri.

Well, yes, OK. But we still need to explain why you can’t swim in the King’s Bath these days.

You could, in my lifetime. I’ve not but my parents have. We used to have the Doolphins swimming lessons in the Cross Bath, just over the road (and traditionally fed by the overflow from the King’s I think). So, why not any more?

Because in the 70s (??) a couple of folk picked up brain eating bugs from swimming in the water.

That is, we’ve got brain eating bugs and also antibiotic bugs in the same waters. Which, when you come to think of it, isn’t all that odd. If there’s something there that can be et – brain eating bugs – then why not something that lives by eating them?

Not that that’s all very scientific but as a rough guide……

19 thoughts on “How glorious”

  1. Elf n safety gone mad.

    Never did our ancestors any harm and they had to cram so much more in before dying at 50

  2. I was expecting a post about Lord Howe’s victory over the French. No, not Geoffrey Howe.

  3. But we still need to explain why you can’t swim in the King’s Bath these days.
    The simple answer being they now measure the bacterial content of the water. Before they measured it by swimming in it. If it didn’t cause significant problems it was adjudged safe. Long history of people dying horribly after swimming in the King’s Bath was there? No? There’s your answer then.

  4. I thought they also found amoebic dysentery in the Baths around the turn of the century?

    But yes, there’ll be all sort of interesting things in there. I wonder if anyone has looked for useful phages?

  5. It’s like the Thames. For most of its history it’s been an open sewer. But people swam in it. Or at least they were unfortunate enough to fall into it at a place where you didn’t hit the surface & bounce. As long as you didn’t drown you survived. These days it’s got to be clean enough to drink if it’s got crayfish thriving in it. But there’s all sorts of “scientists” would tell you you shouldn’t

  6. Arthur

    Alas, scientists say a significant amount of additional investigation is required before the microorganisms found in the Roman Baths can be applied in the fight against disease and infection globally.

  7. Given the number of naked Italians who used to wash their balls in the waters, I am unsurprised that it’s a petri dish.

  8. Bloke in Germany in Portugal

    You’re quite right. Almost all science “journalism” for the last quarter century at least has involved the increasingly weaponized refusal to acknowledge the existence of (random, or at least unmodellable) variability, sampling error, and a relentless focus on the part of the distribution that most supports the political slant of the piece being written.

    Not science, in other words.

  9. Person in Pictland

    @BiGiP: I could almost track the course of this behaviour as I gave up reading successively New Scientist, Scientific American, Science, and Nature.

    All ages pass: the age of science is apparently no exception.

  10. Is that scare about running out of antibiotics still around? There used to be endless tales of how overprescribing, not finishing the course etc would leave us all having our brains eaten.

    The consensus was that there was no life below about 10 inches / depth of a plough. But it turns out there is there is lots. About 10 times more by weight than there is on the surface. Certain bacteria thrive in deep uranium mines, hot sulphur springs, etc.

    BiG may correct me, but I suspect there is a simple reason why we’re “running out” of antibiotics. Co-opting benign bugs to fight nasty bugs is fiddly, time consuming and has limited profitability. Developing mRNA drugs and vaccines for problems that don’t exist is much more sexy.

  11. If you develop a new antibiotic then everyone will insist – rightly – that it doesn;t go into widespread use. In order to delay the inevitably grwoth of resistance.

    But your patent only lasts 20 yeasr – likely, 10 from date of approval. So, you can never make your money back. So, no one develops new antibiotics.

  12. “But your patent only lasts 20 yeasr – likely, 10 from date of approval. So, you can never make your money back. So, no one develops new antibiotics.”

    Would it not make sense then to give a variable time or quantity patent for drugs then? X years or Y thousand doses, which ever comes later?

  13. There are lots of thoughts and discussions going on about precisely this. Most of them fairly sensible – the politicians haven’t grasped it yet so the technocrats can talk. It’s a real problem there are a number of potential solutions, some of them are being tested out. A reasonable aim is to find out what works then do more of that.

  14. “If there’s something there that can be et”

    Et? Is this now an accepted word in the King’s English? I spend half the day correcting small children, and et/eaten is a common mistake. (That and glottal stops: “twen’y bo’’les o’ wa’er instead of “twenty bottles of water”).

  15. Exactly, Andrew M
    How are going to do cunnilingus properly if you can’t pronounce T and TH

  16. Interesting, I visited there in 1999 and they told us people couldn’t use it because it caused encephalitis or something. Just visited again last month but no mention of any disease at this latest visit. I always assumed they were just trying to scare the common people from taking a dip. By the way I really enjoyed the visit.

    Off topic
    My wife and I did hang out in Brixham for 2 1/2 weeks and had a marvelous time. Visited Dartmouth, Torcross, Salcombe, Noss Mayo, Dartmoor, Buckfast Abbey, Stonehenge, Tintagel, Port Isaac, Salisbury Cathedral and then headed for Folkestone and took the Chunnel (Channel Tunnel, take your pick) to Calais. We ended with another 2 weeks touring France (Normandy Beach), Germany, Switzerland and Austria. A lot in a little over 5 weeks but a great time. I would like to thank the many commenters on here for the inspiration for the visit. I am pretty much a lurker here but have been following Tim since I first read him on Forbes and the dueling articles with John Tamny.

  17. Aha, that means you went right past my origin point. Little village called Strete just along from where the river Dart meets the sea…..

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