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Issue 46
, 2013
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How waste water treatment could make germs resistant to antibiotics

Source: Mail online India, Date: , 2013

Scientists are concerned about the increasing resistance to antibiotics in humans, which is being heightened by waste water treatment facilities and other environmental factors.

A recent report published in the November issue of the Lancet Infectious Diseases has expressed worry on this issue.

Antibiotic resistance arises when bacteria evolve mechanisms to withstand drugs which are used to fight them. Recent years have seen an immense increase in the use of antibiotics, and this in the absence of adequate regulatory controls, treatment guidelines and patient awareness, has led to a global surge in antibiotic resistance.

"The environment is key in the spread of resistance," said lead author of the report Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, research scholar at Princeton Environmental Institute and Public Health Foundation of India.

The global report, compiled by 26 leading experts in this field from around the world, includes Dr. Chand Wattal, chairperson of the Department of Microbiology (Sir Ganga Ram Hospital) and Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan.

"Many drivers of antibiotic consumption are grounded in human medicine. However, antibiotic use in veterinary medicine and for growth promotion and disease prevention in agriculture, aquaculture, and horticulture is also a major contributing variable...

"For example, waste water treatment facilities can be a hotspot. The chlorination of drinking water can, in fact, concentrate some antibiotic resistant genes," Dr Wattal said.

One of the key recommendations is for more research on how to neutralise man-made antibiotic pressure and to control the resistance pool in hotspot environments. It also calls for a bolder intervention outside hospitals.

According to experts, selection pressure has made almost all disease-causing bacteria resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat them.

The reports says E. coli in the urine cultures of pregnant women in India during their first trimester showed the highest overall resistance to ampicillin, naladixic acid and co-trimoxazole at 75 per cent , 73 per cent, and 59 per cent respectively, between 2004 and 2007.