Antibiotics In Rivers: 65% Of The World’s Rivers Contaminated

Water sample
Water sample. Image: Mr_Mrs_Marcha Shutterstock

A study by the University of York carried out in more than 700 rivers around the world alerts about the presence of drugs in high concentrations.

Very high concentrations of antibiotics flow in the waters of more than half of the world’s rivers: a study coordinated by the University of York, in Great Britain, has raised the alarm, examining 711 waterways in 72 countries, finding traces of antibiotics in 65% of the cases.

The scientists sent kits for the analysis of 14 of the main antibiotics on the market to research centers on the 6 continents: once the samples had been collected from the waters of the main rivers of the different regions, they were frozen and sent to Great Britain for your analysis.

The worst data come from Asian and African countries : trimethoprim, a drug used mainly for the treatment of urinary tract infections, was the most frequent in the analyzed waterways (307 out of 711), while the most concentrated was metronidazole , which is used primarily for the treatment of skin and oral bacterial infections and is found in amounts 300 times higher than the limit values โ€‹โ€‹of the AMR Industry Alliance, a private body for monitoring and control of resistance to infection with antibiotics.

The ciprofloxacin, used for a wide variety of infections, is the antibiotic compound is most often in concentrations above the limits of safety (51 of 711).

Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Ghana are the countries where antibiotic levels in rivers most often exceed safe maximum levels, but worrying results have also been found in America and Europe: the Danube, in particular, It was the most polluted river on the old continent, with 7 antibiotics found on average at detection points (including clarithromycin, a drug used to treat the respiratory tract and which is detected at concentrations four times higher than those established as limits of security).

Image: Weerasak P Shutterstock

Approximately 8% of the channels analyzed in Europe were above safe limits.

The study confirmed that the highest risk of contamination occurs near water or waste treatment plants, or in areas of conflict and political instability such as the Israel-Palestine border.

High concentrations of antibiotics in waterways could increase the resistance of bacteria and viruses to drugs : according to a recent United Nations study, antibiotic-resistant bacteria could cause up to 10 million deaths worldwide by 2050 .

โ€œ The results are quite worrying, as they demonstrate the widespread contamination of river systems around the world with antibiotic compounds – commented Professor Alistair Boxall, coordinator of the study at the Institute for Environmental Sustainability in York – Many scientists and policy makers now acknowledge the role of the environment in the problem of antibiotic resistance “, he added. Solving this problem will be a major challenge and will require investments in infrastructure for waste and sewage treatment, stricter regulation, and cleaning of already contaminated sites.

The research team will focus on assessing the environmental impact of antibiotic contamination on fish, invertebrates and algae.

According to the study, some rivers in Kenya were so polluted that no species of fish could survive.

More information: www.york.ac.uk

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