Sewage, rivers and soils provide missing link in antibiotic resistance story

phys.org | 7/26/2019 | Staff
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If you think that the key to beating antibiotic resistance is only for doctors to prescribe less and scientists to find new drug candidates, you are probably wrong. The fundamental solutions may lie far from medicine—in managing our rivers and soils.

That is the view of scientists who have uncovered disturbing amounts of antibiotics, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, in rivers and wastewater over the last decade. Now they are developing techniques to quantify the dangers contained within any particular body of water—and they hope this may provoke policymakers into action.

Way - Residues - Environment - People - Faeces

One way in which antibiotic residues reach the environment is when people excrete them in their faeces and urine, says Professor Willem van Schaik, a specialist in microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham in the UK. And it's not just the drugs: the germs causing the disease the antibiotics were taken for will hitch a ride too—and a portion of these will be resistant to the drugs.

In poorer countries, more than 80% of sewage is discharged untreated into the environment. In Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, Dr. Blaise Bougnom, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Yaounde, has been piecing together one particular route for the sewage: human waste often goes directly into city canals, from where urban farmers take water to irrigate crops crucial for city-dwellers' vegetable supplies.

Farming - Poorer - Countries - Vegetables - Roadsides

Urban farming is widespread in poorer countries, with vegetables growing on roadsides, along drainage canals, in roundabouts and parks. It can provide 40% of a city's food supply and up to 90% of its demand for vegetables.

Dr. Bougnom says there is an 'alarming' level of antibiotic-resistant infections in Yaounde's hospitals.

Doctors - Relationship - Setting - Environment

"I discussed with some medical doctors," he said. "I started thinking that there might be a relationship between what we are seeing in the clinical setting and what is happening in the environment. Then I developed...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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