New hope to rescue the livesaving antibiotics
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest known threats to human health. Recent research shows that insufficient treatment of wastewater from pharmaceutical plants is an important contributor, but so far, the problem has been difficult to tackle. Now there is new optimism, with talk of tougher regulation and new incentives. Will 2019 mark a turning point?
The World Health Organization warns that antimicrobial resistance, AMR, could quickly wipe out many of past decades’ health gains. It is expected that by 2050, more people could die from AMR than from cancer and diabetes combined. Over-subscription of antibiotics to humans and overuse in intensive animal farming are two main culprits behind the worrying trend, but in recent years it has been discovered that wastewater emissions from pharmaceutical production play a larger role than previously assumed. Back in 2007, researchers from University of Gothenburg, Sweden, became the first to discover shockingly high levels of antibiotics in rivers downstream from a wastewater treatment plant in India’s pharmaceutical hub, Hyderabad. The concentration of antibiotics in the water was not only the highest ever recorded in the environment, it exceeded what can be found in the blood of patients taking the drug.
Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. After 1945, they have spread rapidly around the world, revolutionizing modern medicine. Antimicrobial resistance: Anti-microbial resistance occurs when a microorganism evolves to resist the effects of an antimicrobial agent. Globally about 700,000 people die of resistant infections every year because available anti-microbial drugs have become less effective at killing the resistant pathogens. Source: UNEP
“Traditionally, regulation on industrial wastewaters focuses on water quality parameters that should safeguard environmental integrity. There are currently no antibiotic discharge limits aimed at preventing development of antibiotic resistance in the environment. Not anywhere in the world, to the best of our knowledge.”