Improvement in human healthcare has depended heavily on the efficiency with which bacterial diseases can be prevented.
But antibiotic resistance — the ability of certain mutant super-bacteria to block out antibiotics — poses a major threat to healthcare, food security, and overall social development worldwide, threatening to overturn much of the progress.
A group of scientists from Korea and the US have now conducted some of the groundwork needed to optimise disinfection and minimise the spread of antibiotic resistance through water.
Professor Yunho Lee at Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Korea, whose contribution is published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology, has led the work on the breakthrough:
Bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria and their resistance genes, abound in various aquatic environments.
These are therefore dangerous breeding grounds for antibiotic resistance, where through a process called horizontal gene transfer, resistant bacteria could transfer the resistance gene to other bacteria, which could then increase the antibiotic resistance levels among the members of the bacterial community, including pathogens.
We could reduce this occurrence, however, if we determined which disinfectants and how much of them could safely and efficiently kill the resistant bacteria and gene in our drinking water and wastewater.
As an initial step towards achieving this, Prof. Lee and his team studied the effects of various amounts of chlorine, ozone, and ultraviolet radiation on the antibiotic resistant genes.
The findings will help public health protection against infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and improvements in sewage systems.