Soil Antibiotic Resistance Increasing

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Scientists in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are reporting disturbing evidence that soil microbes have become progressively more resistant to antibiot­ics for the last 60-plus years. This is in spite of more stringent rules on use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, and improved sewage treatment technology that broadly improves water quality in surrounding environments. The report ap­peared in the biweekly journal Environ­mental Science and Tech­nology. Al­though scientists have known for years that resistance was in­creasing in clinical situations, this is the first study to quantify the same problem in the natural environment over long time-scales. There is concern that increased antibiotic resistance in soils could have broad consequences to public health via po­tential exposure through water and food supplies. The results of this study “imply there may be a progressively increasing chance of encountering organisms in nature that are resistant to anti­microbial therapy.” The study in­volved an analysis of 18 different antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) to 4 different classes of antibiotics in soil samples collected in the Netherlands from 1940 to 2008. ARGs are genes chosen to assess potential changes in resistance in microbes. Using da­ta from sites around the Nether­lands, the scientists found in­creasing levels in 78% of the ARG tested, clearly indicating in­creased potential for resistance over time. Because soil samples were only collected from the Netherlands, the scientists conclude their report by suggesting that further studies need be performed around the world so that the scope and possible ramifications of their results can be better understood.
(Source: EurekAlert!, May 5, 2010, eurekalert.org)