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Antibiotic Drugs Infiltrate Public Waterways

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the that-doesn't-sound-good dept.

Biotech 38

foobsr writes "ScienceDaily in an article points to research conducted at Colorado State University which produces evidence that antibiotics used for animal growth stimulation are making their way into the environment, among them three ionophore antibiotics exclusively used in agricultural applications."

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DRUGS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10628676)

Hey maaaannn... want some waaaaaater?

It's far-out groovy droovy baby.

Disclaimer: (4, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#10628696)

From TFA:
  • these levels are below concentrations that could result in environmental impact or effects on human health
  • "this is still well below safe concentrations for aquatic life and humans."

Re:Disclaimer: (4, Insightful)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 9 years ago | (#10628843)

Even so, one of the chief problems with the use of antibiotics as growth promoters is that this drives the evolution of bacteria with antibiotic resistance. For example, there is now a strain of Staphylococcus Auraeus (aka "Golden Staph") that is resistant to all antibiotics approved for human use. If there are now detectable levels of antibiotics in waterways, this can only make things worse.

Frankly, if I could choose between more expensive chicken meat and dying in 10 years time because of a multi-resistant bacteria infection, I know which option I'd take. But we (the public) don't get to make that choice.

Re:Disclaimer: (4, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 9 years ago | (#10628875)

this is actually the biggest problem, yes. there is a possible way to overcome the problem, though. in ussr, antibiotica were scarce. so the scientists there developed advanced bacteriophages [wikipedia.org]

Re:Disclaimer: (2, Insightful)

Undefined Parameter (726857) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629057)

Ok, someone help me out, here. We aren't supposed to stop taking antibacterials until the prescription is up, because we might make a more resistant strain... but it's often the case that the bacterial strain we're taking antibiotics for is something that our bodies need. So, if we're whiping out that bacteria in our bodies, isn't that a bad thing?

I'm pretty sure I'm wrong in what I just said, but I'd like to know where.

I'd also like to know why it would be good to use a bacteriophage in the first place. It seems like overkill... especially if it whipes out and prevents the re-establishment of bacteria our bodies depend on.

~UP

Re:Disclaimer: (4, Interesting)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629165)

no, you got it wrong.

antibiothics are often broadband so they not only kill bacteria which cause the illness but also the bacteria human body needs (like the ones in the digestive tract).

bacteriophages on the other hand kill only special bacteria strains. so we can cure the illness but leave the good bacteries safe.

Re:Disclaimer: (1)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629240)

I think that usually the antibiotics aren't strong enough to kill every last bacteria in your body, but they kill/weaken/slow enough of them for your immune system to get the upper hand. Of course your immune system doesn't finish off the good ones, so they survive. It may also be that some of them are resistant to many antibiotics, or their position in the body is such that they don't see high antibiotic concentrations. Unfortunately most of the information on the Internet about this issue seems to be anecdotal, from unscientific crackpots or people trying to sell you something (or both). I wouldn't trust any of it.

Re:Disclaimer: (1)

mink (266117) | more than 9 years ago | (#10653540)

Eat yogurt with live cultures after taking a run of antibiotics to help the good guys replenish in your system.

Re:Disclaimer: (5, Insightful)

Domini (103836) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629143)


Actually we do get to choose... at supermarkets you should only buy certified Organic produce.

Organic milk, eggs, fruit and many more items are available. This certifies the food/medicine given to chickens and cattle to be free of environmentally harmful substances such as antibiotics and repocessed animal products.

Re:Disclaimer: (1)

Domini (103836) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629470)

More info on Organic produce and the impact of antibiotics can be found here [ota.com]

Or if you're an Anime fan, check out Earth Girl Arjuna [arjunaproject.com] for a cool series which I was surprised to find having some deep insights into this very subject...

Re:Disclaimer: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10629750)

I try to buy organic when I can. The organic stuff TASTES better than the hormone laden crap.

But 9 times out of 10 the organic stock is EMPTY when I go to the grocery. I haven't had eggs in 2 months b/c every week the store is out of organic ones.

Re:Disclaimer: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10629970)

When they are out, find the manager and make it clear that a sale has been lost because of the low stock. They will listen to you. They want your money after all.

Re:Disclaimer: (2, Insightful)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 9 years ago | (#10630442)

That stops traces of antibiotics going into you, where they may or may not do you harm. But it does not stop the much larger doses being fed to chickens on thousands of non-organic farms, etc. where the resistant bacteria are evolving.

Unless you can think of a way to persuade just about everyone to boycott non-organic chicken, etc., eating organic does not address this issue. The only solution I can think of is a legislated ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters.

exposure may be unsafe still (1)

DarkAdonis (810354) | more than 9 years ago | (#10634925)

When the gov't sets the Threshold Limit Value (TLV) of a substance to a certain level, it does not necessarily mean that exposure to that substance below that level is safe.

I'm no expert, but I'm familiar with US gov't regulations on occupational exposure to some toxic substances. I've seen situations where the gov't sets a TLV and assures the population that "this is still well below safe concentrations." Yet, over the course of decades the TLV is gradually reduced several times as TLV levels previously thought to be safe are proven unsafe.

This typically happens when the effects of a harmful substancet don't surface for several years. I think the gradual reduction of TLVs is due partly to huge industries that know that TLV reductions increase their cost of business.

Best. Song. Ever. (1, Redundant)

dbirchall (191839) | more than 9 years ago | (#10628820)

(4-Aminobiphenyl, hexachlorobenzene
Dimethyl sulfate, chloromethyl methylether
2, 3, 7, 8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-
para-dioxin, carbon disulfide)
(Dibromochloropane, chlorinated
benzenes, 2-Nitropropane, pentachlorophenol,
Benzotrichloride, strontium chromate
1, 2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane)

(Yeah, yeah, name that tune. RIP, Warren.)

Re:Best. Song. Ever. (1)

miller701 (525024) | more than 9 years ago | (#10630056)

I'll mod up any WZ reference. The great thing is it (mostly)) rhymes!

Might this cause super-bacterium? (4, Interesting)

ezraekman (650090) | more than 9 years ago | (#10628951)

A few years ago, there was a concern/rumor making the rounds that anti-bacterial soap would cause super-strains of bacteria to appear, having built up resistances to the soaps we use. A roommate asked me once if I thought this meant he should stop using the stuff. At the time, I answered by asking him if he should leave his doors unlocked, to prevent thieves from becoming smarter. However, now that antibiotics have made it out into the environment in a much larger scope, I'm forced to re-think my answer. Any thoughts?

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (4, Insightful)

amorsen (7485) | more than 9 years ago | (#10628986)

Thieves are able to learn, but they evolve very slowly. Bacteria are unable to learn, but evolve very quickly. There are perhaps millions of thieves in the world, but the number of bacteria is so large that I won't even guess. Also, we have a whole range of things we can do to deter thieves, whereas with bacteria the weapons are only hygiene, immune system, and antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is evolved step-by-step in bacteria. If a bunch of bacteria are subjected to a slight amount of antibiotics, a few of them with a tiny bit of resistance can survive and multiply. Then if they are subjected to slightly more antibiotics, the most resistant again survive and multiply, Eventually they are resistant even to high doses.

Note that this process only starts when there is a low amount of antibiotics in the environment. If there was a lot it would kill them all, even the ones that are highly resistant. So please don't use stuff that exposes bacteria to low amounts. No antibiotic soaps, no antibiotic growth-enhancers, and if you are prescribed antibiotics, don't stop taking them just because you got better. Only stop when the doctor tells you to stop.

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (4, Interesting)

Dr. Cody (554864) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629309)

No antibiotic soaps, no antibiotic growth-enhancers, and if you are prescribed antibiotics, don't stop taking them just because you got better.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't "anti-bacterial," in the context of soap, just as much bullshit as "pH balanced" or "...for women"? (that is to say, purely a marketing term) From what I understand, soap is a rather nasty thing for all household bacteria, and a label such as "anti-bacterial" could be applied at will.

Add to that, as long as I've lived, I have never recognized an antibiotic's name on a bar of soap's ingredients list.

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (4, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629422)

no, it isn't bullshit. often, triclosan is used as the antiseptic in such soaps. this chemical is very alike to antibiotics and bacteries can and will build up a resistance to it, too. should any antibiotica be used which works the same way, the bacteria would be resistant to that.

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (3, Interesting)

ctr2sprt (574731) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629370)

Just because some bacteria mutates to become immune to our existing drugs doesn't mean we can't find a new drug. After a hundred years of not using any of 2004's best antibiotics, the new bacteria might just be vulnerable to the stuff we've got now, too, even if it's become immune to the next generation of drugs we develop. And as we understand more about the biology of the situation, in particular how bacteria react in the human body and such, it's possible we can develop "contrasting" drugs. So you first treat an infection with Drug A. This drug is designed to force the bacteria to evolve in a particular way, which makes it vulnerable to Drug B. Drug B does the same but for Drug C. And so on until you remove the bacteria's ability to resist Drug A and you start over again. I'm not sure how plausible or near-term that is, but I can imagine it, so it's not a complete load!

I should probably shut up, as I'm obviously no biologist. But I have faith that, for the time being at least, medical science is capable of keeping up with this sort of problem.

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (2, Insightful)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629479)

You should stick with your second paragraph.
Our antibiotics are derived from the natural
defenses of molds etc. which took Bob knows
how long to develop. We won't be able to keep
churning out "new" antibiotics at the drop of
a hat, and it sure as hell isn't possible to
do "breed" bacteria in the wild as you propose.

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (0)

jamesh (87723) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629631)

I always thought the problem with anti-bacterial products is that they deprive your body of low-level exposure to bacteria & other bugs and hence it doesn't build up a good immunity. So I don't think your analogy was a good one.

Sampling your own nasal secretions (snot :) is also supposed to help you boost your immune system, but I think it's better if you do it as a kid.

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629762)

both explanations (his and yours) are correct.

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (1)

nlindstrom (244357) | more than 9 years ago | (#10635273)

Sampling your own nasal secretions (snot :) is also supposed to help you boost your immune system, but I think it's better if you do it as a kid.
So if I pick my nose and then eat it, I'll be healthier in the long run? Sweet!

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 9 years ago | (#10639551)

  • Sampling your own nasal secretions (snot :) is also supposed to help you boost your immune system, but I think it's better if you do it as a kid.

Yeah, immune system develops when you're a kid, and when you're adult, it won't get much better. Or, as some countryside doctor was rumoured to have said, those who don't play horse dung war as a kid won't be healthy as adults :-)

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 9 years ago | (#10630580)


There's also a concern/rumor/claim that anti-biotic soap is no more effective at killing bacteria than non-anti-biotic soap. I've even seen both claims made in the same slashdot post.

It's hard to believe that both are true.

Also, it's important to remember that many anti-biotic substances are naturally occuring. Anti-biotics have been present in the environment for millions of years at completely uncontrolled levels. If it were possible for a super-bacterium to evolve, it is likely that it would have done so by now. What evidence we have suggests that anti-biotic resistance is a costly trick, and the bacteria that develop it are less able to infect healthy organisms, which is why we see anti-biotic resistant strains in hospitals and prisons, where there are lots of immune-compromised people.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't be concerned about the presence of synthetic anti-biotics in our environment, or that we should merrily go on over-dosing ourselves with anti-biotics at every turn.

I wish it were possible to raise environmental and public-health concerns without claiming the world was coming to an end, because any objective look at the facts will always tell you it isn't. This leads to an increasing level of skepticism when none of the terrible predictions come true, which leads to lots of important problems being ignored because the only people who take them seriously are kooks.

Re:Might this cause super-bacterium? (1)

ezraekman (650090) | more than 9 years ago | (#10631108)

According to Dr. Alan Greene [drgreene.com] , you are correct in your supposition that independent studies contradict each other regarding this issue. However, both are true, from a certain point of view:

"Is antibacterial soap the best cleansing agent? The scientific studies comparing antibacterial soap to regular soap give apparently contradictory results. Some studies show it is better, others that it is worse, and others seem to show no difference. Taken together, these studies indicate that antibacterial soaps are more effective at reducing infections by some organisms (especially staph and strep); they are worse at preventing some types of infections (especially by some of the organisms called gram negative bacteria, since the antibacterial soaps kill much of the beneficial bacteria that normally live on our skin and protect us from some of these gram negative organisms); and they make no difference for some types of infections (such as cytomegalovirus [CMV], or Clostridia -- the bacteria that cause gangrene)."

The answer depends on the type of bacteria you are trying to kill. I have also read that most people don't leave the soap on their hands long enough to have a serious antibacterial effect, anyway. At most, people usually leave antibacterial soap on their hands for a maximum of 20 seconds. It is recommended that, if you wish the antibacterial properties to come into play, you leave the soap on your hands as you would a moisturizing lotion.

Obviously, this is not an ideal solution. I suppose one could try to find out "how long" the chemicals would need to remain on your skin long enough to kill whatever might be present, but otherwise it would seem that the antibacterial effects would be wasted, and thus, detrimental at best. I'd suggest dipping your hands in rubbing alcohol or something similar for the 20 seconds that you'd have otherwise spent making sure the soap touches every part of your hands.

Go for Organic. (2, Insightful)

Domini (103836) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629330)

It's slightly more expensive, but we do have a choice to go for Organic [ota.com] produce. I can buy almost anything organic, including steak, eggs, milk, coffee, fruit and vegetables from a local Woolworths.

But then again, I guess it's difficult to change with such a huge fast-food industry.

Don't forget the Prozac in our water supply... (5, Interesting)

nano2nd (205661) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629475)

From the UK newspaper The Observer back in the summer..

Stay Calm Everyone! [guardian.co.uk]

Prozac, albeit tiny amounts, now exists in our rivers and groundwater.

Not Good (0, Redundant)

Gaarde (51279) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629507)

Does anyone else see this as a bad thing?

What a brilliant question!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10630272)

The answer is, of course, "yes."

Excellent! (4, Funny)

CodeWanker (534624) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629752)

Does this mean that drinking out of the jacuzzi in the Asian "Health Spa" I frequent protect me from any love bugs I might get there?

In the long run... (1)

human bean (222811) | more than 9 years ago | (#10629950)

These people produce antibiotics, which they dump into their environment. Some bacteria die because of this. Some bacteria live and reproduce in their new environment.

These bacteria produce toxins, which they dump into their environment. Some people die because of this. Some people live and reproduce in their new environment.

What made you think you were an exception?

Now I know... (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 9 years ago | (#10631700)


...what Kerry's new prescription drug plan is!

Too bad it wasn't flu vaccine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10632391)

"Grandma, time to drink your flu shot."

--
Mod +1 funny -100 lame

This isn't new. (1)

macz (797860) | more than 9 years ago | (#10638730)

I am searching for the reference to the kid who won the science fair using the laser based method of detecting antibiotics in the water supply... apparently he cause an uproar over this very issue.

Antibiotics in waterways (1)

geoff_probes (826158) | more than 9 years ago | (#10656513)

I'm fascinated to see monensin, used exclusively in agricultural applications for growth enhancement in cattle - does this take the pressure off Mc Donalds et al for causing obesity?
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