Indian River Overwhelmed by Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria – Chromatography Investigates!
Jan 26 2016
Antibiotics are a type of drug used to control bacterial infections. First identified in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, they have been at the forefront of our fight to control infections and safeguard life. But it is a fight that we are struggling to win with strains of bacteria mutating and becoming immune to our current antibodies.
A recent study published in the journal International Journal of Bioassays has highlighted some of the problems with our continued reliance on antibodies and why their usefulness is being reduced. The study — ‘Prevalence of multidrug resistance in Escherichia coli strains isolated from river Yamuna, Delhi stretch’ — sampled water from one of the main tributaries of the Ganges, a river so important that it helps to feed 10% of the world’s population.
Too much of a good thing?
The World Health Organisation has highlighted antibiotic resistance as
‘one of the biggest threats to global health today. It can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.’
As antibiotic resistance spreads, common illnesses and simple cuts could become serious and life threatening conditions as we lose the ability to control and fight them.
It is estimated that there have been over 25,000 deaths in Europe due to antibiotic resistant bacteria — so in countries that have poor sanitary conditions allowing bacteria to spread faster and more easily — the situation is likely to be much worse.
No chance of the river being infected!
The Yanuma River flows South from the Himalayas past New Delhi before turning Southwest and joining the Ganges. Like many rivers around the world, it is used for drinking, irrigation and sewage. Although there are water treatment plants along the river, the volume of sewage generated easily overwhelms the system — coupled with the fact that millions of people don’t have access to basic sanitation — meaning the water is heavily polluted.
As the study found, this can lead to an increase in antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria. As the bacteria from different sources and strains mix together they can exchange genetic information — creating bacteria that are resistance to antibodies. This can also lead to multi-drug resistant bacteria (MDR) — bacteria that can be extremely difficult to control.
In a report in The Economic Times, a government minister confirmed that several widely used antibiotics were found in the samples from the river tested using liquid chromatography linked to tandem mass-spectrometry. Analysis of antibiotics using chromatography is discussed in this article, Monolithic Silica Columns for Simple and Fast LC-MS Analysis of Antibiotics in Mammalian Tissue and Body Fluid and in Pharmaceutical Formulations.
Superbugs in hospitals are one example of antibiotic resistance that has made headlines and caused deaths in the West. But it is a global problem caused by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. This has allowed the antibiotics to enter the environment around us. Without a change in our behaviour and use of antibiotics — it might be too late and the bugs will win.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
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