Antibiotic resistance, also called antimicrobial resistance (AMR), is a major global public health issue that has implications for effectively treating a growing number of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi. Antibiotic use selects for resistance strains in human and animal wastes, which can be released to the environment via wastewater, spreading ARGs and AMR bacteria across nature. An estimated 1.2 million people died in 2019 from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections according to the University of Oxford.
The study shows that metal pollution can also affect the resident bacteria, with Firmicutes and Bacteroidota being the most abundant phyla at sites with high metal pollution. These groups of bacteria are common in metal-contaminated environments and are known to carry MRGs and ARGs in “gene cassettes”. This explains why metal exposures can cause antibiotic resistance.
The study also found that specific combinations of metals promote the strongest bacterial responses. Cobalt plus Nickel and combining Cobalt, Zinc, and Cadmium were the most effective at causing antibiotic resistance.
Modern Water, a global leader in water quality analysis for trace metals, works with municipal water authorities and operators worldwide to help them detect harmful trace metals in river water that may damage the environment to protect the health of cities and communities.