Antibiotics in rivers puts millions of human lives at risk and endangers animals too

I am looking at a report in The Times newspaper of today Friday, September 4, 2020 about human antibiotics, and a study reported on Plos One about the prevalence of veterinary antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria in the surface water of a livestock production region in northern China. The study is dated 2014.

We know that the citizens of China overuse antibiotics as a kind of preventative to colds. This is in the public domain and I’m not being prejudicial in that statement. So the study is about how overuse of antibiotics in livestock can lead to watercourses containing antibiotics which can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In turn this can make the antibiotics less effective when used on livestock in the future. The bacteria referred to in this study is E. coli.

Antibiotics in rivers
Antibiotics in rivers. Photo: New Indian Express.

With respect to people, The Times reports of high levels of antibiotics in rivers and other wastewater which is putting people at risk of death from routine infections because the antibiotic drugs become ineffective against bacteria.

You may be surprised to know that almost three-quarters of prescribed antibiotics taken by people end up in the environment. They get there in two ways (1) flushed down the toilet in waste and (2) medicines thrown away, perhaps in the toilet.

Bacteria in rivers and watercourses interact with the antibiotics and develop a resistance to the drugs. The bacteria can then evolve and develop a resistance in humans to antibiotics.

There is a call for limiting the amount of antibiotics ending up in sewers in order to fight the increase in bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics. A horror projection from scientists is that there could be an extra 10 million deaths annually by 2050 because antibiotics fail to work.

The scientists need to work out the safe concentration of antibiotics in wastewater. Research is being carried out at the University of Exeter and by the drug Company AstraZeneca. The curren levels are unsafe.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria at a level below the current threshold present a risk to humans because of the chance of increase resistance evolving over time.

Professor Will Gaze of the University of Exeter said that action needed to take place to ensure that “wastewater contains safe levels of antibiotics, to slow the increase in antibiotic resistance which threatens society.”

The study was published in the journal Communications Biology.

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