Antibiotic resistance spreads through air we breathe

Antibiotic resistance spreads through air we breathe

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The serious threat to global public health posed by the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) is alarming enough as it is but now, the problem has become even worse as scientists warn ARGs are spreading through the air, creating new forms of superbugs.In a study carried out by an international collaboration of researchers led by Peking University in Beijing, scientists found that ARGs can become airborne, travelling from bacteria to bacteria around the world, even to remote regions or other places where antibiotics are less used. This could make common bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics when uptaking these ARGs.
This is serious because airborne ARGs ‘represent bacteria’s second, more difficult-to-manage method of accumulating genes. Unlike animals that have to wait to give birth to pass their genetic material on to the next generation, bacteria can inject each other with genetic material, including ARGs. The effects are permanent because the genes get encoded in the DNA of the recipient bacteria.’
‘This process, called horizontal transfer, is what makes airborne resistance such a threat. Air currents that circulate in urban environments swirl around millions of people every day, greatly increasing the possibility that a typical resistant bacteria might meet an antibiotic-resistant one.’ Study author Maosheng Yao PhD of Peking University’s College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering suggests that these genes originate in places like wastewater treatment plants, hospitals or animal feeding operations. Wastewater, specifically, is often treated with antibiotics that, if unsuccessful in killing all bacteria, could lead the survivors to evolve a host of resistance genes. Previous research has also shown wastewater is likely to be aerosolized — meaning that the particles present in the water can become airborne.
The study findings were reported in a 25 July 2018 article on the Inverse website and we have reproduced the full article below. The full study was published in Environmental Science and Technology. — Third World Network

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