Antibiotics are contaminating the world’s rivers

antibiotics

(Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


om the Mekong to the Seine, the first global study of antibiotics in the world’s rivers has revealed that some contain concentrations up to 300 times above ‘safe’ levels.

Antibiotic pollution was found in two-thirds of the rivers sampled.

Image: AMR Industry Alliance

 

Scientists from York University in England tested samples from rivers in 72 countries. They found safe limits for the most commonly used antibiotics were exceeded in all continents but the highest levels were in Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Describing their findings as “eye opening and worrying”, the scientists said solving the problem would be a mammoth task involving investment in wastewater treatment, tighter regulation and cleaning up contaminated rivers.

“Many scientists and policy makers now recognise the role of the natural environment in the antimicrobial resistance problem. Our data show that antibiotic contamination of rivers could be an important contributor,” said Alistair Boxall, of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute.

Global killers

Antibiotic resistant infections already kill more than 700,000 every year, according to the AMR (antimicrobial resistance) Industry Alliance. As more bacteria develop immunity to treatment, the Alliance of leading drug makers says superbugs will kill more people than cancer by the middle of this century.

Overuse of antibiotics is leading us into a post-antibiotic world in which people will once again die from common infections and minor injuries, the World Health Organisation has said, calling antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats to humanity.

Bacterial resistance is growing fastest in areas where antibiotics for human and animal use can be bought without prescription.

A study of antibiotic use in the developing world reported that medical staff were prescribing antibiotics as a precaution even if patients were suffering from a virus against which the treatments are known to be ineffective.

No easy answers

Scientists say the only way to slow the growth of resistant infections is to reduce the use of antibiotics worldwide. But new evidence suggests that limiting prescribing to occasional use may not be as effective as previously hoped.

A Harvard University study of patients in the United States found that occasional, low-intensity use by large numbers of people led to more resistance than intensive use by a few.

“More antibiotic use generally means more antibiotic resistance, but it seems like the number of people taking antibiotics might matter more than the amount they’re taking,” said lead author Scott Olesen.

Incentivising research

Image: World Economic Forum

In its report on antimicrobial resistance, the World Economic Forum says poor financial returns are holding back the development of new antibiotics because the $40 billion-a-year global antibiotics market is dominated by generic drugs sold at low prices.

The report says drug companies won’t invest in new treatments unless they are able to recover research costs. And it calls for increased public funding for research and guaranteed financial returns to incentivise companies to find new treatments.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Financial stability: Commission addresses risks of Libor cessation

Data Protection Regulation one year on: 73% of Europeans have heard of at least one of their rights

A bad marriage can be as unhealthy as smoking and drinking

Accountability in Sudan ‘crucial’ to avoid ‘further bloodshed’, says UN rights office

Commission deepens criticism on German economic policies

Myanmar Government side-lining democratic reform, resorting to military era repression: UN expert

G20 LIVE: “International communities and leaders have great expectations for 2016 G20 summit in Hangzhou China”, Mr Wang Xiaolong, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s special envoy stresses live from G20 in Antalya Turkey

This Dutch butcher makes plants taste just like meat

Austerity lovers and ‘relaxationists’ fight over the EU budget

Here are seven steps the insurance industry in the ASEAN region can take to navigate disruption

We finally have a life-saving vaccine for Ebola

3 ways to make the 2020s the decade we close the gender gap

Negotiations on new EU collective redress rules to begin

The Indian miracle state pointing the way to global sustainability

Could this electric ferry’s success herald an era of greener shipping?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Busting the myth by looking at the facts

Half of all violent deaths involve small arms and light weapons

Air Pollution Control: Does Your Action Matter?

Women and girls in science – from aspiration to reality

The hidden downsides of autonomous vehicles – and how to avoid them

EU invests in green projects and bans single-use plastics while climate change requires more to be done

Coronavirus: Commission presents practical guidance on implementing the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU

Transition between education and employment: how the internship culture is threatening the foundations of our education

Syria: Thousands of children ‘hemmed in’ by ‘brutal and gratuitous’ spike in violence

We are witnessing a revolution in genomics – and it’s only just begun

Better and more robust rights for rail passengers

Gender equality: an issue much talked about but less acted upon

Arlington, USA: kick-off of the fifth round of the EU-US boxing match

Yemen: 11 more ‘terrible, senseless’ civilian deaths reported, following attack in Sana’a – top UN official

Launch of Pact for Youth: European Youth Forum calls for real business engagement

UN welcomes ‘milestone’ release of 833 Nigerian children from anti-Boko Haram force

2019 Innovation Scoreboards: The innovation performance of the EU and its regions is increasing

Armed groups threaten every child in Central African Republic, UNICEF warns

“Be aware where you put your I Agree signature on and something else”; now Facebook by default opts you in an unseen private data bazar

Fair and Simple Taxation: Commission proposes new package of measures to contribute to Europe’s recovery and growth

How blockchain can manage the future electricity grid

COVID-19: Commission launches European team of scientific experts to strengthen EU coordination and medical response

Have we reached peak smartphone?

European Parliament approves new copyright rules for the internet

British PM May’s Brexit proposal remains obscure while her government unravels

How young people are turning the tide against corruption

EU-UK future relations: “level playing field” crucial to ensure fair competition

UN-led Yemen ceasefire monitoring team gets ready to begin operations

Italy’s Letta: A European Banking Union soon or Eurozone collapses

18th EU Eco-Innovation Forum in Barcelona shows the way for Europe’s new Environmental policy

COP21 Breaking News_08 December: Cities & Regions Launch Major Five-Year Vision to Take Action on Climate Change

What data dominance really means, and how countries can compete

The EU Diplomacy in North Korea promotes peace or war?

EU to negotiate an FTA with Japan

Threat to biodiversity risks a flood of economic ruin

Inflation keeps falling in Eurozone

“Smoking steam instead of tobacco, are the E-cigarettes a safer alternative?”

What’s a logarithmic graph and how does it help explain the spread of COVID-19?

Pushing for tax fairness in a digital world

Coronavirus: EU guidance for a safe return to the workplace

Eight years after Fukushima, nuclear power is making a comeback

On the detention of children in the United States of America

Youth for Climate Change

Despite progress towards peace, Afghanistan facing ‘daunting challenges’ ahead of presidential vote

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s