Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) should be considered emerging environmental contaminants with more research devoted to the mechanisms by which they spread, scientists say in a report scheduled for the Dec. 1 issue of the semi-monthly ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Colorado State University's Amy Pruden and colleagues reached that conclusion after a study that documented occurrence of tetracycline and sulfonamide ARGs in irrigation ditches, river sediments, and other spots in the environment in northern Colorado.
They detected tetracycline resistance genes in treated drinking water, suggesting that it may be a pathway for spread of ARGs to humans.
ARGs are pieces of DNA that make bacteria resistant to common antibiotics - recognized as an increasingly serious global health problem. The genes can spread in different ways. Bacteria, for instance, exchange ARGs among themselves. Pruden and colleagues note that even if cells carrying ARGs have been killed, DNA released to the environment can persist and spread to other cells.
"ARGs in and of themselves can be considered to be emerging 'contaminants' for which mitigation strategies are needed to prevent their widespread dissemination," they state.
The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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