Antimicrobial resistance results in an increase in morbidity, mortality and healthcare costs for the individual, health system and country
A new research has pinpointed the role of waste water in contributing to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in India and China, the world’s largest producers and consumers of antibiotics.
Read more: Antimicrobial resistance: How factory farming is destroying our planet
Antibiotic residues in wastewater and wastewater treatment plants (WTP) here serve as “potential hotspots for the development of AMR,” according to the findings of the study published in The Lancet Planetary Health in January 2022.
Antibiotics provide effective treatment for various infections, but resistance to antimicrobials due to their misuse and overuse is a global public health concern.
AMR occurs when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Such superbugs are a global threat as they can lead to untreatable infections in animals and humans.
AMR results in an increase in morbidity, mortality and healthcare costs for the individual, health system and country.
The researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, also demarcated the relative contribution of different sources of contamination, such as hospitals, municipal wastes, livestock and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
“Our results can help decision-makers to target risk reduction measures against environmental residues of priority antibiotics and in high-risk sites, to protect human health and the environment,” said Nada Hanna, the study’s first author.
Antibiotic residues from water are likely to sweep into groundwater. It can pollute the environment during the production, consumption and disposal of drugs.
Read more: Unregulated use of antibiotics a threat to public health, say experts
The researchers observed antibiotic concentrations exceeding safe levels in wastewater, effluents of WTPs and other water bodies. The residues of antibiotic ciprofloxacin were found in drinking water in China, with levels above the threshold.
It indicates that the present treatment facilities do not entirely remove them. Additionally, the removal efficiency varied greatly across various antibiotics and wastewater treatment facilities.
“Environmental releases of antibiotics, together with other factors, exert selective pressure on bacteria and thus generate reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes,” the study read.
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