The antibiotic resistant bacteria, Acinetobacter, was found at five sites in and near Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Waste Water Treatment Plant by a team of University of Michigan researchers.
Don’t blame the treatment plants, said lead researcher Chuanwu Xi, assistant professor at the UM School of Public Health in a press release.
The real culprits are people who flush unused antibiotics down the toilet, Xi said. The next stop for the antibiotics is the treatment plant where the drugs kill off many bacteria, leaving only the resistant super bacteria.
Luckily, the antibiotic resistant bacteria don’t seem to build up outside the treatment plants.
“When we monitored the survival of these bugs in the Huron River, the downstream level dropped quickly to the level of upstream,” Xi said. “More robust risk-assessment research is needed to assess the exact risk. This study, along with many other studies, alerts us to proper use and handling of antibiotics.”
Super bacteria are a health threat because an infection can’t be treated with antibiotics.
Xi advises the public to dispose of antibiotics and other medications properly.
All unused medications should be disposed of according to the guidelines set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. They encourage using pharmaceutical take-back programs as well as asking health care professionals or local waste municipalities for disposal instructions.
Scanning electron micrograph of a highly magnified cluster Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria (Wikimedia Commons)