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THURSDAY June 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) – Antibiotic levels in some of the world's rivers are hundreds of times higher than what is considered safe, British researchers report.
For the new study, researchers checked rivers in 72 countries on six continents for 14 commonly used antibiotics and found them at 65% of the sites monitored.
"The results are quite remarkable and worrying, demonstrating the widespread contamination of river systems all over the world with antibiotics," said Alistair Boxall, professor of environmental science at the University of York, in England.
The most common they found was trimethoprim, which is mainly used to treat urinary tract infections. It was discovered at 307 of the 711 locations, according to the researchers.
At one location in Bangladesh, the concentration of the antibiotic metronidazole was more than 300 times the safe level. The drug is used to treat a wide range of bacterial infections.
In Bangladesh, the maximum total antibiotic concentration was 170 times higher than in the River Thames and one of the tributaries in London, the findings showed.
Ciprofloxacin, which is used to treat a number of bacterial infections, exceeds safe levels in 51 sites, most in the study.
Unsafe antibiotic levels were most common in Asia and Africa, but sites in Europe, North America, and South America also had high levels, demonstrating that antibiotic infection is a "global problem," according to the researchers.
Sites where antibiotics exceeded the safe levels with the greatest degree in Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria. A site in Austria had the highest level in Europe.
High-risk sites were usually located near waste water treatment systems, waste or sewage dumps and in some areas of political unrest, including the Israeli and Palestinian borders.
"Many scientists and policy makers now recognize the role of the natural environment in the antimicrobial resistance problem," Boxall said in a university press release. "Our data shows that antibiotic pollution of rivers can make an important contribution."
He said that solving the problem is "a huge challenge" that requires new waste and waste water treatment infrastructure, stricter regulations, and clearance of contaminated sites.
The findings were recently presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Helsinki. Research presented at meetings is generally considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.
– Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University of York, press release, May 27, 2019
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