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The world's rivers are full of antibiotics

Daniela Gschweng / 01 July 2019.

From Tigris to the Thames: The study reveals dangerous levels of antibiotics in many rivers around the world.

Research from the University of York, presented in Helsinki in May, shows that some of the world's most famous rivers contain dangerous levels of antibiotics. The most polluted rivers are in Asia and Africa. But in Europe there are more antibiotics in the rivers than scientists think it is safe.

Researchers have tested rivers in 72 countries for 14 common antibiotics, from Mekong to Sene. They have compared the amount with AMR Industry Alliance restrictions. A group of experts and companies from biotechnology, pharmacy and diagnostics is involved in detecting and controlling antibiotic resistance.

More than three fifths of all river water samples contained antibiotics

In 65 percent of samples, the university lab found it. Researchers have discovered the largest quantities of antibiotics in river water samples from Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria. In Bangladesh, the limit of metronidazole, an antibiotic used, among other things, for urinary tract infections, is exceeded 300 times. Some rivers in Kenya have so many medicines that fish can not survive in them.

The world's rivers are full of antibiotics 2

The amount of antibiotics in the rivers is worrying. Reading example: In Africa, 35% of samples crossed borders (Data: Boxall, Wilkinson, Graphics: Guardian)

By contrast, European rivers are relatively clean, but here too, the limits are exceeded several times. In Thames, one of the purest rivers in Europe, researchers have found five different antibiotics. In several locations in the British River and its tributaries, they found ciprofloxacin concentrations that were three times larger than the borders. This antibiotic also caused most of the limit values ‚Äč‚Äčover the entire monitoring period. Seven antibiotics were found in samples from the Danube in Austria. This includes clarithromycin, the concentration of which has quadruplically exceeded the limit.

"Concerned results" should help fight drug resistance

Alistair Boxall, one of the director of the study, describes the findings of the Guardian as "worrisome." Nevertheless, the study has the advantage that scientists and politicians now can better assess the impact of ecological bacteria on resistance generation thanks to the first global monitoring.

Resistance to antibiotics is one of the most pressing global health problems of today. One of the main causes is contamination with antibiotics. The drugs are spread through leaks in waste water treatment plants, production algae, human and animal waste in soils and water, where resistant strains develop. For humans, these ecological bacteria are seldom dangerous. They are first settled in the body, for example in the human digestive system, and can transfer the resistance genes to more dangerous species.

The study has revealed many antibiotics, especially where waste water treatment leaves something that could be desired, waste disposal is poorly regulated, or political conflicts make it more difficult to treat, such as at the border between Palestine and Israel. Along with insufficient infrastructure, excessive use of antibiotics in livestock farming and agriculture, as well as the global mobility of humans, animals and goods is the main driver of the development of the super-bacteria.

See also:

Read More: Infosperber File "When Antibiotics Do Not Work"

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