Antibiotic resistant bacteria detected in polluted air

Traces of antibiotic-resistant bacteria were detected in polluted city air, suggesting smog may be contributing to the rise of drug-resistant infections, according to a recent study published in Microbiome.

For the study, researchers examined 864 samples of DNA extracted from humans, animals and different environments from around the world. In air samples taken from cities, researchers detected genetic material associated with the development of antibiotic resistance, though it wasn't clear if the bacteria were alive or not in the air.

"This may be a more important means of transmission than previously thought," said Joakim Larsson, a professor at Sahlgrenska Academy and director of the Centre for Antibiotic Resistance Research at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. "Of particular concern is that we found a series of genes that provide resistance to carbapenems, a group of last resort antibiotics taken for infections caused by bacteria that are often very difficult to treat ... it is reasonable to believe that there is a mixture of live and dead bacteria, based on experience from other studies of air."

Dr. Larsson's team will next attempt to determine if sewage treatment plants are facilitating the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the air.

More articles on infection control: 
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Ringworm may be misdiagnosed half the time 
Pittsburgh prison knew about contaminated water months before medical director died from Legionnaires'

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