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ALERT: Air Pollution Could Promote Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Nov 21, 2016 04:48 AM EST

A new study revealed that air pollution could provide a possible means of transportation for the genes that make bacteria resistant to existing drugs.

The study, published in the journal Microbiome, showed that the DNA from genes, which makes bacteria resistant to most drugs, lingers in the air samples taken from Beijing.

"This may be a more important means of transmission than previously thought," explained Joakim Larsson, a professor at Sahlgrenska Academy and director of the Centre for Antibiotic Resistance Research at the University of Gothenburg, in a press release. "We studied only a small number of air samples, so to generalize, we need to examine the air from more places. But the air samples we did analyze showed a wide mix of different resistance genes."

For the study, the researchers analyzed a total of 864 samples of DNA collected from humans, animals, and different environments worldwide to look for genes that make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The researchers were able to observed worrying traces of the genes in air samples taken from Beijing. Making the matter worst, the researchers discovered series of genes that can create bacteria resistant to carbapenems, which is considered to be the last resort against hard-to-treat bacterial infections.

The researchers were not able to determine whether the sampled bacteria were actually alive in the air. However, based on their experience in such studies, the researchers believe that the sampled air have the mixture of live and dead bacteria.

With their findings, the researchers plan to conduct further studies to determine if drug-resistance could spread through the air. Their next research will involve European sewage plants. The researchers plan to let the employees of the treatment plant to carry air samplers. The bacterial flora and fauna of the people living near the treatment plants will also be analyzed to determine possible connection between bacterial community in the area and the treatment plants.

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