Antibiotic resistant bacteria caught in flagrante delicto in wastewater treatment plants

File:Sewer Plant.jpg

A sewage treatment plant, not THE sewage treatment plant

I’ve been writing about antibiotic resistance from the perspective of rapid evolution. That totally drug resistant bacteria exist is scary enough. Now we find that even in places like sewage treatment plants designed to destroy the buggers, they are happily breeding away.

A report out of Rice University this week describes research revealing survival and reproduction of resistant bacteria at two wastewater treatment plants in China. Just the prospect resistant bacteria breeding in sewage plants meant to disinfect water is disturbing enough but there’s more. Because bacteria are incredibly promiscuous, they are sharing their resistance genes via plasmids with other bacteria inside and outside of the plant.

Here is quote from Rice University’s Press Release (Pedro Alvarez led the study and is one of the authors of the report):

“We often think about sewage treatment plants as a way to protect us, to get rid of all of these disease-causing constituents in wastewater. But it turns out these microbes are growing. They’re eating sewage, so they proliferate. In one wastewater treatment plant, we had four to five of these superbugs coming out for every one that came in.”

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