Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Antimicrobial Resistance in the Environment


The class of chemicals characterized as biocides are used in all parts of society from home to hospital, to farms and industry. The presence of biocides selects for genes in microorganisms that can protect against their lethal effects. These biocide resistance genes are often the same genes as antibiotic resistance genes (i.e. cross-resistance), or they can be co-located on plasmids, for example, which means when biocides are present the microorganism will also co-select for antibiotic resistance genes (i.e. co-resistance).

Dr. Andrew C Singer has written an interesting blog post on antimicrobial resistance. Here is an extract:

“The problem with antimicrobial resistance (AMR), globally, is the combination of: 1) increased prevalence of antibiotic resistance; 2) rapid spread of AMR due to global travel; 3) antibiotic misuse; and 4) too few new antimicrobials in development. National, regional and global AMR Action Plans have been drafted to tackle many of these problems. Thorough reviews, such as the O’Neill AMR Reviews, provide a useful overview of these challenges and some mitigation measures. However, symptomatic of the O’Neill Reviews and AMR Action Plans is their under appreciation of the role that the environment plays in the selection, spread and transmission of AMR. Discussions of the environment are typically limited to the pharmaceutical manufacturing plants as a source of antibiotics and the role that sewage and farm run-off can play in dissemination of antibiotics. The discussions on these issues are superficial and narrow in scope.


Current AMR Action Plans and the O’Neill Reviews see antibiotics as the primary driver of AMR; hence, all mitigating measures are focused solely on reducing their use and release into the environment. This vision of the challenge of AMR is not helpful as it omits other AMR drivers that could be, on their own, more important than antibiotics for selecting, maintaining and spreading AMR in the environment, let alone as a collective group of AMR drivers.”

The full post can be accessed here.

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle