Pollution fact: 90 percent of antibiotics leave the body intact

Virginia Tech researchers discover new ways that antibiotic resistance can spring up in the environment and spread.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Virginia Tech researchers are worried about antibiotic resistance in the environment.

One way of dealing with the antibiotic resistance problem is to reduce its spread.

Specifically, Virginia Tech researcher Amy Pruden is concerned about the antibiotic resistance genes that end up polluting the environment.

In fact, 90 percent of antibiotics that go into the body actually never get used and is just excreted through waste. So, if you're taking antibiotics and you pee, then most of the antibiotic dose actually goes on its merry way to the wastewater treatment facility and eventually into the environment.

This is bad, especially when antibiotic resistance genes are found in the environment.

In this study, the researchers said they discovered one antibiotic resistance gene in 100 percent of the treatment plant and animal feeding operations they looked at.

The scientists uncovered patterns of the antibiotic resistance in the environment. They can actually tell if the genes originally came from human or animals.

Excreted antibiotics get into the environment through fish hatcheries, animal feeding operations and from manure fields. Wastewater treatment plants also release the antibiotic resistance genes into the environment, Pruden explained.

What's more, the gene wasn't present in the Poudre River. There in the clean water source, the researchers only found the genes once.

When antibiotic resistance genes pollute rivers, the genes can be transferred horizontally to other bacteria.

That's why it's better to control its spread, so the genes don't end up contaminating soils, groundwater and surface water in the first place.

"New drug discovery can no longer keep pace with emerging antibiotic-resistant infections," Pruden added.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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