Friday, May 27, 2022

Antibiotics aren't working? The reason may be pollution.

 One of the most pressing issues in modern medicine is the rise in antibiotic resistance among bacteria and other microorganisms. According to new research, pollution may also cause bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance. Heavy metal-polluted rivers have more bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, as it turns out. The resistance of microbes increases even when the water is not contaminated with drugs.

Photo by Pietro Jeng:

Antibiotic resistance is primarily caused by the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and agriculture. It is also favored by drugs, which, as pollutants, end up in bodies of water and other natural areas.

Antibiotic resistance can also be caused by another type of pollutant, heavy metals, as evidenced by a recent study published in the journal Environmental Pollution.

The level of bacterial resistance to antibiotics and heavy metals in sediments from two rivers, the Ganges and Yamuna, and streams in the British Tyne catchment area, was investigated by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and colleagues from the United Kingdom. Due to the area's history of intensive mining activity, the water in Tyne contains a high concentration of heavy metals.

The findings revealed that heavy metal resistance genes, as well as antibiotic resistance genes, are more common in areas where heavy metals are abundant. Even if the river was not poisoned with antibiotics alone, this would be the case.


One of the reasons is that bacteria of the Firmicutes and Bacteroidota types, which contain both of these types of genes, have an advantage in metal-contaminated environments.


Two metal combinations, cobalt with nickel and cobalt with zinc and cadmium, were found to promote the growth of resistant bacteria the most.


This research does not necessarily imply a health risk, but it does demonstrate that even if a river or stream is not contaminated with antibiotics, it may still contain more antibiotic-resistant bacteria due to contamination with other substances, such as metals. Antibiotic resistance is a greater concern for rivers like the Yamuna, which are contaminated with metals and a variety of other pollutants.


Prof. David Graham of Newcastle University, one of the study's co-authors, says.


According to the researchers, high metal exposure can cause bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance, making them resistant to a variety of drugs.


When heavy metals are combined with other contaminants such as antibiotics, detergents, and other chemicals, heavy metal-induced antibiotic resistance increases. 

This emphasizes the importance of reducing heavy metal contamination in order to limit antibiotic resistance transmission and spread.


Dr. Sonia Gupta of the Indian Institute of Technology explains.


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