Waste Treatment Plants Result in Super Bacteria

Posted on May 13, 2009  Comments (2)

Multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria has emerged as one of the top public health issues worldwide in the last few decades as the overuse of antibiotics and other factors have caused bacteria to become resistant to common drugs. Chuanwu Xi‘s group chose to study Acinetobacter because it is a growing cause of hospital-acquired infections and because of its ability to acquire antibiotic resistance.

Xi said the problem isn’t that treatment plants don’t do a good job of cleaning the water—it’s that they simply aren’t equipped to remove all antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals entering the treatment plants.

The treatment process is fertile ground for the creation of superbugs because it encourages bacteria to grow and break down the organic matter. However, the good bacteria grow and replicate along with the bad. In the confined space, bacteria share resistant genetic materials, and remaining antibiotics and other stressors may select multi-drug resistant bacteria.

While scientists learn more about so-called superbugs, patients can do their part by not insisting on antibiotics for ailments that antibiotics don’t treat, such as a common cold or the flu, Xi said. Also, instead of flushing unused drugs, they should be saved and disposed of at designated collection sites so they don’t enter the sewer system.

The next step, said Xi, is to see how far downstream the superbugs survive and try to understand the link between aquatic and human superbugs. This study did not look past 100 yards.

Xi’s colleagues include visiting scholar Yongli Zhang; Carl Marrs, associate professor of public health; and Carl Simon, professor of mathematics.

Xi and colleagues found that while the total number of bacteria left in the final discharge effluent declined dramatically after treatment, the remaining bacteria was significantly more likely to resist multiple antibiotics than bacteria in water samples upstream. Some strains resisted as many as seven of eight antibiotics tested. The bacteria in samples taken 100 yards downstream also were more likely to resist multiple drugs than bacteria upstream.

Full press release

Related: How Bleach Kills BacteriaSuperbugs, Deadly Bacteria Take HoldBacteria Race Ahead of DrugsNew Family of Antibacterial Agents Discovered

2 Responses to “Waste Treatment Plants Result in Super Bacteria”

  1. Gustav
    May 14th, 2009 @ 9:45 am

    Can you refer to some scientific papers on this matter. More specifically than in the text above?

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Are you ready for a world without antibiotics?
    August 15th, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

    […] Make Decision That Will Speed Antibiotic Drug Resistance – Raised Without Antibiotics – Waste Treatment Plants Result in Super Bacteria – How Bleach Kills Bacteria – CDC Urges Increased Effort to Reduce Drug-Resistant […]

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