JAN 03, 2016 08:06 AM PST

A Surprising Link Between Toxic Waste and Antibiotic Resistance

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
3 19 1645
A study from the University of Georgia identifies industrial waste as a factor contributing to antibiotic resistance.  Ecologist J. Vaun McArthur suspects that antibiotic use - whether in agriculture or health care - isn’t solely to blame for the widespread development of resistant bacteria.  

To test this hypothesis, McArthur and colleagues surveyed bacteria at the 310 square mile U.S. Department of Energy Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.  This location houses facilities that manufactured materials for nuclear weapons.  According to McArthur, "the site was constructed and closed to the public before antibiotics were used in medical practices and agriculture … the streams have not had inputs from wastewater, so we know the observed patterns are from something other than antibiotics".
 
Tinker Creek, one of 11 sites surveyed

The group collected bacteria from water and sediment at 11 sites from nine streams.  They tested 427 strains of E. coli for resistance to five antibiotics and found large numbers of resistant bacteria in 8 of 11 samples.  "These streams have no source of antibiotic input, thus the only explanation for the high level of antibiotic resistance is the environmental contaminants in these streams -- the metals, including cadmium and mercury", says McArthur.  While they acknowledge that test sites could be contaminated with waste from animals harboring resistant bacteria, only streams with a history of industrial contamination contained resistant bacteria.

Unfortunately, the authors don’t address my lingering question - how exactly does industrial waste contribute to antibiotic resistance?  

Sources: Microbial Ecology, Science Daily
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAY 09, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 09, 2018
What we can Learn From Viruses that Infect Bacteria
Phages are viruses that infect bacteria; scientists have found that the same phage can have a markedly different effect on different kinds of bacteria.
MAY 28, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 28, 2018
Bacterial Toxin Linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Scientists have found evidence that it's not a bacterium, but one of its toxins, that is connected to, and possibly causing intestinal dysfunction.
JUL 19, 2018
Cardiology
JUL 19, 2018
HIV Infection Doubles Risk of Heart Disease
Recent study of 150 countries and over 800,000 people shows HIV patients are more than twice as likely to develop Heart Disease than uninfected individuals.
JUL 21, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
JUL 21, 2018
Designer Cells Sense & Destroy MRSA
Staphylococcus aureus is thought to lead to over 11 million visits to the doctor and the ER every year in the US alone.
JUL 24, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 24, 2018
Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Raw Turkey Products
Researchers at the CDC are trying to learn more about a rash of Salmonella infections.
AUG 06, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 06, 2018
How Undetected Viral Infections Impact our Health
It seems that when people are infected with CMV but don't have any obvious symptoms, there may still be effects.
Loading Comments...