In the first known study of its kind, Chuanwu Xi of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and his team sampled water containing the bacteria Acinetobacter at five sites in and near Ann Arbor's wastewater treatment plant.
They found the so-called superbugs—bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics—up to 100 yards downstream from the discharge point into the Huron River. Xi stresses that while the finding may be disturbing, it is important to understand that much work is still needed to assess what risk, if any, the presence of superbugs in aquatic environments poses to humans.
"We still need to understand the link between aquatic and human multiple drug resistant bacteria," said Xi, assistant professor of public health.
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.
"Twenty or 30 years ago, antibiotics would have killed most of these strains, no problem," he said.
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. 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.School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health Sciences: www.sph.umich.edu/ehs
The University of Michigan School of Public Health (www.sph.umich.edu) has worked to promote health and prevent disease since 1941, and is consistently ranked among the top five public health schools in the nation.
Laura Bailey | EurekAlert!
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy