Soil studies reveal rise in antibiotic resistance

December 23, 2009

Antibiotic resistance in the natural environment is rising despite tighter controls over our use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, Newcastle University scientists have found.

Bacterial DNA extracted from soil samples collected between 1940 and 2008 has revealed a rise in background levels of antibiotic resistant genes.

Newcastle University's Professor David Graham, who led the research, said the findings suggest an emerging threat to public and environmental health in the future.

"Over the last few decades there has been growing concern about increasing antibiotic resistance and the threat it poses to our health, which is best evidenced by MRSA," explained Professor Graham, who is based in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University.

"Despite increasingly stringent controls on our use of antibiotics, the background level of antibiotic resistant genes, which are markers for potential resistance, continues to rise in soils."

"This increases the chances of a resistant gene in a harmless bacteria being passed onto a disease-causing pathogen, such as a MRSA, with obvious consequences."

Published online this week in the academic journal Environmental Science and Technology, the report uses data taken from five sites in the Netherlands.

The team, which also includes Dr Charles Knapp and Dr Jan Dolfing, of Newcastle University, and Dr Phillip Ehlert, Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, found that 78 per cent of genes from four classes of antibiotics showed increasing levels since 1940 - despite continued efforts to reduce environmental levels.

Professor Graham said the next step would be to analyse soil samples from other parts of the world, although he expects to see similar results.

He adds: "The big question is that with more stringent European regulations and greater emphasis on conservative antibiotic use in agriculture and medicine, why are antibiotic resistant gene levels still rising?"

"Whatever the cause, this rise suggests an ever increasing risk of resistant genes being passed from environmental organisms to organisms of greater health concern."

Professor Graham contends that more complementary studies are desperately needed between environmental and public health researchers to determine whether this increasing 'pool' of resistance is actually contributing to harmful bacteria, such as MRSA.
-end-


Newcastle University

Related Antibiotics Articles from Brightsurf:

Insights in the search for new antibiotics
A collaborative research team from the University of Oklahoma, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Merck & Co. published an opinion article in the journal, Nature Chemical Biology, that addresses the gap in the discovery of new antibiotics.

New tricks for old antibiotics
The study published in the journal Immunity reveals that tetracyclines (broad spectre antibiotics), by partially inhibiting cell mitochondria activity, induce a compensatory response on the organism that decreases tissue damage caused during infection.

Benefits, risks seen with antibiotics-first for appendicitis
Antibiotics are a good choice for some patients with appendicitis but not all, according to study results published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

How antibiotics interact
Understanding bottleneck effects in the translation of bacterial proteins can lead to a more effective combination of antibiotics / study in 'Nature Communications'

Are antivitamins the new antibiotics?
Antibiotics are among the most important discoveries of modern medicine and have saved millions of lives since the discovery of penicillin almost 100 years ago.

Hygiene reduces the need for antibiotics by up to 30%
A new paper published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), finds improved everyday hygiene practices, such as hand-washing, reduces the risk of common infections by up to 50%, reducing the need for antibiotics, by up to 30%.

Antibiotics: City dwellers and children take the most
City dwellers take more antibiotics than people in rural areas; children and the elderly use them more often than middle-aged people; the use of antibiotics decreases as education increases, but only in rich countries: These are three of the more striking trends identified by researchers of the NRW Forschungskolleg ''One Health and Urban Transformation'' at the University of Bonn.

Metals could be the link to new antibiotics
Compounds containing metals could hold the key to the next generation of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of global antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics from the sea
The team led by Prof. Christian Jogler of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has succeeded in cultivating several dozen marine bacteria in the laboratory -- bacteria that had previously been paid little attention.

Antibiotics not necessary for most toothaches, according to new ADA guideline
The American Dental Association (ADA) announced today a new guideline indicating that in most cases, antibiotics are not recommended for toothaches.

Read More: Antibiotics News and Antibiotics Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.