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'Superbugs' take to the highway

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Villages situated along roads have a higher prevalence of antibiotic-resistant E. coli than rural villages located away from roads, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and international colleagues studied a region in northwest Ecuador for five years, focusing on antibiotic resistant E. coli and the effectiveness of common antibiotics used against it.

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"Our results show it's not just the individual's antibiotic use that affects antibiotic resistance," UM researchers Joe Eisenberg said. "Other important factors that affect the spread of antibiotic resistance are the rates at which people introduce new strains due to movement in and out of the region, as well as poor water quality and sanitation that allow for the transmission of antibiotic resistant strains."

The presence of roads increases the influence of both those factors, he said.

"We focus so much on the individual, and if they do or don't take antibiotics, but we're learning more and more that there's a broader environmental and social context in which antibiotic resistance happens," Eisenberg said.

Although studies on infectious diseases have shown roads impact the spread of disease, this is the first known study to show that roads also impact the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, he said.

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