Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Widespread in Hudson River, Study Finds

Ongoing Risks Come From Sewage

The risk of catching some nasty germ in the Hudson River just started looking nastier. Disease-causing microbes have long been found swimming there, but now researchers have documented antibiotic-resistant strains in specific spots, from the Tappan Zee Bridge to lower Manhattan. The microbes identified are resistant to ampicillin and tetracycline, drugs commonly used to treat ear infections, pneumonia, salmonella and other ailments. The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Water and Health.

“If you find antibiotic-resistant bacteria in an ecosystem, it’s hard to know where they’re coming from,” said study co-author Andrew Juhl, a microbiologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “In the Hudson, we have a strong case to make that it’s coming from untreated sewage.”

On repeated visits to 10 locations on the Hudson, the researchers found microbes resistant to ampicillin 84 percent of the time, and resistant to tetracycline 38 percent of the time. The stretches harboring the most sewage-indicator bacteria also generally contained the most antibiotic-resistant ones. These were led by Flushing Bay, near LaGuardia Airport, followed by Newtown Creek, on the border of Brooklyn and Queens; and sewage outfall pipes near Piermont Pier in Rockland County, N.Y.; West 125th Street in Manhattan; and Yonkers, in Westchester County, N.Y.. The antibiotic-resistant bacteria found include potentially pathogenic strains of the genera Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Proteus and Escherichia.

“They could be difficult to treat in people with compromised immune systems,” said Dr. Stephen Morse, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study. “If I were inclined to swim in the Hudson, quite truthfully I’d look to this paper for the places to stay away from.”

Though people routinely catch infections while swimming, only severe illnesses are typically treated with antibiotics. And an antibiotic-resistant infection would be noted only if the illness failed to respond to treatment--a scenario that probably happens, but is not well documented or reported, said Morse. One exception was an outbreak on the Indonesian island of Borneo in 2000 when 32 athletes competing in a swimming event in the Segama River came down with leptospirosis. Transmitted by animal urine, the infection is marked by fever, chills and pink eye.

Previous studies in the Hudson have shown that microbe counts go up after heavy rains, when raw sewage is commonly diverted into the river. Some 27 billion gallons of raw sewage and rainwater are released into the Hudson each year by wastewater treatment plants. Lacking the capacity during heavy rains to simultaneously pump runoff from city streets and sewage from buildings, many sewage-treatment plants are forced to divert both streams into the river, in what is known as a combined-sewer overflow, or CSO. In an ongoing partnership with the environmental group Riverkeeper, scientists at Lamont-Doherty and Queens College at the City University of New York have been tracking water quality in the Hudson and making their results public on Riverkeeper’s website. Their work has confirmed that CSOs remain a serious problem, even though the Hudson is generally cleaner than it has been in the past.

The Hudson has gotten so much better,” said the study’s lead author, Suzanne Young, a former student at Lamont and Queens College, now at the University of South Florida. “If we came up with a sustainable solution, water quality could continue to improve.”

This is not the first time that antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found in a river. A 2002 study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found ampicillin-resistant bacteria in the Hudson, as well as 15 other U.S. rivers, including the Mississippi, Ohio and Colorado. However, this is the first study to firmly link specific microbes to sewage in the Hudson, and to compare results at different locations.

It is not just a matter of swimming safely. Rivers can incubate bacteria, allowing them to transfer their drug-resistant genes to normal bacteria. “If these resistant genes are transferred, they can develop into disease-causing bacteria,” said Ronald J. Ash, a microbiologist and professor emeritus at Washburn University, lead author of the 2002 paper.

Bacteria can also play an important role in the environment. As more antibiotic-resistant microbes replace native bacteria, those changes could eventually have an impact on plants and animals. “Microbial communities can affect the health of the entire ecosystem,” said Young, who is now studying how Mississippi water snakes respond to infection with antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Antibiotic resistance has become a public health crisis. About 100,000 people die each year from hospital-acquired infections, most of which are due to antibiotic-resistant pathogens, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Superbugs resistant to methicillin kill about 19,000 people each year, more than HIV/AIDS. The development of resistance has been linked to overuse of antibiotics to treat minor infections in humans, and to industrial feedlots, where low levels of antibiotics are fed to chicken, cattle and pigs to promote growth and prevent infection. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are fed to livestock.

There are signs that the tide is turning, at least in the Hudson. In a landmark deal with the state, New York City agreed last year to spend $187 million to replace some parking lots and city streets with porous pavement, and to plant more vegetation on rooftops and other impervious surfaces to reduce runoff. An additional $2.4 billion will be spent on infrastructure to eliminate 1.5 billion gallons of CSOs by 2030. “There’s now a timeline for answering the question, ‘How much sewage overflow reduction is needed and when?’ ” said Larry Levine, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which. pushed for the settlement.

Public awareness may also help. In 2012, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law requiring public notification of sewage spills in New York waters. Not long after the law passed, Westchester County announced a “controlled discharge” at Sleepy Hollow, sparking a debate about whether the National Ironman competition should cancel its swimming leg 15 miles to the south. (The swim went ahead as planned).

“The results from this study are significant because they help us to understand the processes involved in the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria through the environment, but also because they provide added incentive to reduce sewage pollution into our waterways” said coauthor Gregory O’Mullan, a microbiologist with joint appointments at Lamont and Queens College who oversees the laboratory where the study was done.
Media Inquiries:
Kim Martineau
Office:(845) 365-8708
Cell: (646)-717-0134

Kim Martineau | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>