By CAROL THOMPSON
Capital News Service
LANSING — While health agencies look for faster ways to detect harmful E. coli bacteria on public beaches, including those on lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, they are overlooking another germ that may cause even greater problems, scientists warn. Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, is a newly recognized beach threat by research teams across the country. “This organism is tenacious, it can reoccur and it can be very difficult to get rid of,” said Marilyn Roberts, a University of Washington professor who has studied the bacteria on marine and freshwater beaches near Seattle. “It can cause a huge amount of destruction of tissue, and in the worst case scenario it can cause death.”
The federal Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t require local governments to check beaches for staph. Instead, they test for E. coli, a bacteria usually spread through feces from farm runoff or leaky sewers.