Amy Pruden, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, says the antibiotics in the environment become "potential sources of antibiotic resistance genes," ScienceDaily.com reported Monday.
"The presence of antibiotics, even at sub-inhibitory concentrations, can stimulate bacterial metabolism and thus contribute to the selection and maintenance of antibiotic resistance genes," Pruden says. "Once they are present in rivers, antibiotic resistance genes are capable of being transferred among bacteria, including pathogens, through horizontal gene transfer."
The World Health Organization in New York and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta recognize antibiotic resistance "as a critical health challenge of our time," Pruden says.
Reducing the spread of antibiotic resistance is critical in prolonging the effectiveness of currently available antibiotics. This is important since "new drug discovery can no longer keep pace with emerging antibiotic-resistant infections," Pruden says.
Pruden and her colleagues believe identifying sources of antibiotics in the environment "shed light on areas where intervention can be most effective in helping to reduce the spread of these contaminants through environmental matrixes such as soils, groundwater, surface water and sediments."