The levels aren’t just a little above normal- they’re up to 300 times higher than they should be.
Work completed by researchers at the University of York in England has found that antibiotics in river water around the world often exceed ‘safe’ limits. It happens in many places, with the most frequent occurrences being found in Asia and Africa. But it doesn’t end there. There are also sites in Europe and both North and South America that are highly contaminated, and so the issue can be seen as a global problem.
Rivers with the highest levels of antibiotics were found to be located in Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria. Austria is home to Europe’s worst location.
Researchers say they examined rivers in 72 countries including the Chao Phraya, Danube, Mekong, Seine, Thames, Tiber and Tigris across six continents, looking for 14 commonly used antibiotics. They found that 65% of the areas monitored were contaminated.
Overall, the most prevalent antibiotic found was trimethoprim, something that’s often used to treat urinary tract infections. It was in just under half of the 711 sites tested worldwide.
Ciproflaxaci was the compound that most frequently surpassed safe levels. It’s used to treat bacterial infections.
Scientists say the results could provide insight into the role the world’s natural environment plays in growing antimicrobial resistance. Creating infrastructure for handling waste and wastewater could help solve the problem, or at least prevent it from continuing to expand.
For more on antimicrobial resistance and superbugs, click here.