A researcher at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, Georgia, reported Monday on why it's not a good idea to eat mud when mountain bike racing. More than 25% of 800 total racers, who participated in a race in Squamish, British Columbia last June, became ill with a bug from feces that were in mud through which they raced. "Campylobacter jejuni" was cited as the culprit - it causes diarrhea and abdominal cramps for between two and ten days when in contaminated water or food.
"All you could see were the whites of their eyes from the pictures we saw," Dr. Eleni Galanis said of the riders to the Canadian Press when describing the very muddy conditions. After the race, an investigation was led by the Public Health Agency of Canada's field epidemiology program, the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.
Scientists took samples from along the course, but not until three weeks afterward and no Campylobacter was found although high concentrations of other coliforms, including evidence of E. coli contamination, were discovered. No source for the contamination last summer was identified although race-provided drinking water was ruled out as the source.