Contaminated soil linked to antibiotic resistant bacteria
An increase in drug-resistant infections has spurred researchers to examine a possible link between environmental bacteria and the proliferation of antibiotic resistance.
New research from Edith Cowan University has found that soils containing elevated metal conditions were more likely to hold strains of the resistant bacteria. Researchers from ECU’s School of Science and School of Medical and Health Sciences found that soils containing even small amounts of lead, manganese or aluminium contained bacteria with antibiotic resistance.
A resistance to antibiotics has become one of the most significant issues to threaten populations globally, as the prevalence of drug-resistant bacterial infections spreads across the drug-type and across the world. Within a few years, generations of newly developed antibiotics lose their efficacy against many bacterial infections, and it becomes increasingly difficult to develop and supply new effective antibiotics.
Researcher Dr Annette Koenders said previous studies carried out overseas had shown a link between high levels of metal contamination in soil and antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“But our study, undertaken in WA, shows that even low concentrations of metals are correlated with increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria,” Koenders says.
“This antibiotic resistance in bacteria occurs as part of a naturally occurring response to protect from pollutants or stress, especially toxic metals.”
Soil samples were collected from 90 gardens in residential Western Australia and were analysed for the presence of 14 different metals. In each sample, the DNA of the bacteria was examined for strains of the genes associated with antibiotic resistance.
Dr Koenders said the results showed that an assessment of the metals present in soil should form part of environmental approvals for new developments.
“This is particularly important when developing aged care facilities or schools and childcare centres and where people grow their own food,” she said. “This is because as well as being more vulnerable to bacterial infection, children and older people, on average, are in contact with soil more often because children are crawling and playing on the ground, whereas for older people they are likely to spend more time gardening and growing homegrown produce.”
ECU’s study has shed new light on the amount of metal traces that can be present in soil to correlate to antibiotic resistance, which, as a result, may have an impact on future effectiveness of existing and developing drugs.
The study, ‘Relationship between antibiotic resistance genes and metals in residential soil samples from Western Australia‘ was recently published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.
Image copyright: aniruto7o6/123RF Stock Photo