Irrigating vegetables with wastewater in African cities may spread disease

phys.org | 10/12/2018 | Staff
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Urban farmers growing vegetables to feed millions of people in Africa's ever-growing cities could unwittingly be helping to spread disease by irrigating crops with wastewater, a new study reveals.

Experts discovered that wastewater collected from canals used for urban agriculture in Burkina Faso was rich in virulent human pathogens which cause gastroenteritis and diarrhoea – a major cause of death in low and middle-income countries.

Researchers - University - Birmingham - Team - Burkina

Researchers at the University of Birmingham led an international team from Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Germany in studying wastewater samples from three canals in the capital Ouagadougou – a city of 2.2 million inhabitants.

After identifying a wide range of antibiotic resistance genes in the water, they concluded that using wastewater for urban agriculture in the city posed a high risk of spreading bacteria and antimicrobial resistance among humans and animals.

Population - Africa - UN - Estimates - Agriculture

With the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa expected to rise from 400 million (2010) to 1.26 billion in 2050, according to UN estimates, agriculture in towns and cities is recognised as a vital way of contributing to food security and alleviating poverty.

Professor Laura Piddock, from the University of Birmingham's Institute of Microbiology and Infection, commented: "Using wastewater for agricultural irrigation represents a very serious health risk, not least as it increases exposure to faecal pathogens. Wastewater appears to be a 'hot spot' for antibiotic resistant bacteria in Burkina Faso."

Investigations - Extent - Populations - Health - Issue

"We urgently need further investigations to determine the extent that exposed populations are affected by this health issue. There is also an urgent need to improve global access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in low and middle-income countries...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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