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Drug-resistant bacteria found in wildlife as antibiotics abound in environment due to overuse

Posted: November 6, 2013 |   Comments

( Drug-resistant infections are quickly becoming a distressing problem for human, driven in large part by an extreme overuse of antibiotics in humans and for livestock production. Now, new research from Tufts University's veterinary school has shown that antibiotic resistance has spread from the hospitals and farms into nature, where it is affecting wildlife.

To learn this, researchers collected around 600 samples of fecal matter from crows from four different states. After analyzing all the poop, they found that about 2.5 percent of the crows sampled had bacteria containing genes that made them resistant to vancomycin, a powerful drug used to treat difficult, hospital-acquired infections. In addition to the bacteria's vancomycin-resistance, they were also resistant to several other antibiotics commonly used in medicine and livestock feed.

The results of this study are truly worrying, as the bacteria's drug-resistance can stem from multiple sources and is hard to determine specifically. The researchers speculated that waste sites may be a potential source of the crows' bacteria. "Because birds are so mobile, it's possible they may acquire resistance genes from multiple sources in their travels," said Julie Ellis, one of the research scientists working on the project. "Maybe they visit a dumpster or sewage treatment plant one day and later a farmer's field."

This new research shows that what humans do in our own artificial environment and how we raise animals on farms can have a great impact on nature, and we need to exercise caution and reduce our use of antibiotics to help protect wildlife and human health and reduce the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.

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