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New study finds that even the cleanest wastewater contributes to more 'super bacteria'
Date:11/14/2011

A new University of Minnesota study reveals that the release of treated municipal wastewater even wastewater treated by the highest-quality treatment technology can have a significant effect on the quantities of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, often referred to as "superbacteria," in surface waters.

The study also suggests that wastewater treated using standard technologies probably contains far greater quantities of antibiotic-resistant genes, but this likely goes unnoticed because background levels of bacteria are normally much higher than the water studied in this research.

The new study is led by civil engineering associate professor Timothy LaPara in the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities College of Science and Engineering. The study is published in the most recent issue of "Environmental Science and Technology," a journal of the American Chemical Society. The research was part of a unique class project in a graduate-level civil engineering class at the University of Minnesota focused on environmental microbiology.

Antibiotics are used to treat numerous bacterial infections, but the ever-increasing presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has raised substantial concern about the future effectiveness of antibiotics. In response, there has been increasing focus on environmental reservoirs of antibiotic resistance over the past several years. Antibiotic use in agriculture has been heavily scrutinized, while the role of treated municipal wastewater has received little attention as a reservoir of resistance.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria develop in the gastrointestinal tracts of people taking antibiotics. These bacteria are then shed during defecation, which is collected by the existing sewer infrastructure and passed through a municipal wastewater treatment facility.

In this study, the Ph.D. students and professor examined the impact of municipal wastewater in Duluth, Minn., on pristine surface waters by
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Contact: Rhonda Zurn
rzurn@umn.edu
612-626-7959
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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