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Biotech Science

Antibiotic Drugs Infiltrate Public Waterways 38

Posted by timothy
from the that-doesn't-sound-good dept.
foobsr writes "ScienceDaily in an article points to research conducted at Colorado State University which produces evidence that antibiotics used for animal growth stimulation are making their way into the environment, among them three ionophore antibiotics exclusively used in agricultural applications."
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Antibiotic Drugs Infiltrate Public Waterways

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  • Disclaimer: (Score:5, Informative)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @01:46AM (#10628696) Homepage
    From TFA:
    • these levels are below concentrations that could result in environmental impact or effects on human health
    • "this is still well below safe concentrations for aquatic life and humans."
    • Re:Disclaimer: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bigsteve@dstc (140392) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @02:32AM (#10628843)
      Even so, one of the chief problems with the use of antibiotics as growth promoters is that this drives the evolution of bacteria with antibiotic resistance. For example, there is now a strain of Staphylococcus Auraeus (aka "Golden Staph") that is resistant to all antibiotics approved for human use. If there are now detectable levels of antibiotics in waterways, this can only make things worse.

      Frankly, if I could choose between more expensive chicken meat and dying in 10 years time because of a multi-resistant bacteria infection, I know which option I'd take. But we (the public) don't get to make that choice.

      • Re:Disclaimer: (Score:5, Informative)

        by dunkelfalke (91624) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @02:41AM (#10628875)
        this is actually the biggest problem, yes. there is a possible way to overcome the problem, though. in ussr, antibiotica were scarce. so the scientists there developed advanced bacteriophages [wikipedia.org]
        • Ok, someone help me out, here. We aren't supposed to stop taking antibacterials until the prescription is up, because we might make a more resistant strain... but it's often the case that the bacterial strain we're taking antibiotics for is something that our bodies need. So, if we're whiping out that bacteria in our bodies, isn't that a bad thing?

          I'm pretty sure I'm wrong in what I just said, but I'd like to know where.

          I'd also like to know why it would be good to use a bacteriophage in the first place.
          • Re:Disclaimer: (Score:5, Interesting)

            by dunkelfalke (91624) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:16AM (#10629165)
            no, you got it wrong.

            antibiothics are often broadband so they not only kill bacteria which cause the illness but also the bacteria human body needs (like the ones in the digestive tract).

            bacteriophages on the other hand kill only special bacteria strains. so we can cure the illness but leave the good bacteries safe.
          • I think that usually the antibiotics aren't strong enough to kill every last bacteria in your body, but they kill/weaken/slow enough of them for your immune system to get the upper hand. Of course your immune system doesn't finish off the good ones, so they survive. It may also be that some of them are resistant to many antibiotics, or their position in the body is such that they don't see high antibiotic concentrations. Unfortunately most of the information on the Internet about this issue seems to be a
          • Eat yogurt with live cultures after taking a run of antibiotics to help the good guys replenish in your system.
      • Re:Disclaimer: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Domini (103836) <lailoken@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:11AM (#10629143) Journal

        Actually we do get to choose... at supermarkets you should only buy certified Organic produce.

        Organic milk, eggs, fruit and many more items are available. This certifies the food/medicine given to chickens and cattle to be free of environmentally harmful substances such as antibiotics and repocessed animal products.

        • More info on Organic produce and the impact of antibiotics can be found here [ota.com]

          Or if you're an Anime fan, check out Earth Girl Arjuna [arjunaproject.com] for a cool series which I was surprised to find having some deep insights into this very subject...
        • Re:Disclaimer: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bigsteve@dstc (140392)
          That stops traces of antibiotics going into you, where they may or may not do you harm. But it does not stop the much larger doses being fed to chickens on thousands of non-organic farms, etc. where the resistant bacteria are evolving.

          Unless you can think of a way to persuade just about everyone to boycott non-organic chicken, etc., eating organic does not address this issue. The only solution I can think of is a legislated ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters.

    • When the gov't sets the Threshold Limit Value (TLV) of a substance to a certain level, it does not necessarily mean that exposure to that substance below that level is safe.

      I'm no expert, but I'm familiar with US gov't regulations on occupational exposure to some toxic substances. I've seen situations where the gov't sets a TLV and assures the population that "this is still well below safe concentrations." Yet, over the course of decades the TLV is gradually reduced several times as TLV levels previous

  • Best. Song. Ever. (Score:2, Redundant)

    by dbirchall (191839)
    (4-Aminobiphenyl, hexachlorobenzene
    Dimethyl sulfate, chloromethyl methylether
    2, 3, 7, 8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-
    para-dioxin, carbon disulfide)
    (Dibromochloropane, chlorinated
    benzenes, 2-Nitropropane, pentachlorophenol,
    Benzotrichloride, strontium chromate
    1, 2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane)

    (Yeah, yeah, name that tune. RIP, Warren.)
  • by ezraekman (650090) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:05AM (#10628951) Homepage
    A few years ago, there was a concern/rumor making the rounds that anti-bacterial soap would cause super-strains of bacteria to appear, having built up resistances to the soaps we use. A roommate asked me once if I thought this meant he should stop using the stuff. At the time, I answered by asking him if he should leave his doors unlocked, to prevent thieves from becoming smarter. However, now that antibiotics have made it out into the environment in a much larger scope, I'm forced to re-think my answer. Any thoughts?
    • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:23AM (#10628986)
      Thieves are able to learn, but they evolve very slowly. Bacteria are unable to learn, but evolve very quickly. There are perhaps millions of thieves in the world, but the number of bacteria is so large that I won't even guess. Also, we have a whole range of things we can do to deter thieves, whereas with bacteria the weapons are only hygiene, immune system, and antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is evolved step-by-step in bacteria. If a bunch of bacteria are subjected to a slight amount of antibiotics, a few of them with a tiny bit of resistance can survive and multiply. Then if they are subjected to slightly more antibiotics, the most resistant again survive and multiply, Eventually they are resistant even to high doses.

      Note that this process only starts when there is a low amount of antibiotics in the environment. If there was a lot it would kill them all, even the ones that are highly resistant. So please don't use stuff that exposes bacteria to low amounts. No antibiotic soaps, no antibiotic growth-enhancers, and if you are prescribed antibiotics, don't stop taking them just because you got better. Only stop when the doctor tells you to stop.

      • by Dr. Cody (554864) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @05:11AM (#10629309)
        No antibiotic soaps, no antibiotic growth-enhancers, and if you are prescribed antibiotics, don't stop taking them just because you got better.

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't "anti-bacterial," in the context of soap, just as much bullshit as "pH balanced" or "...for women"? (that is to say, purely a marketing term) From what I understand, soap is a rather nasty thing for all household bacteria, and a label such as "anti-bacterial" could be applied at will.

        Add to that, as long as I've lived, I have never recognized an antibiotic's name on a bar of soap's ingredients list.
    • by ctr2sprt (574731) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @05:43AM (#10629370)
      Just because some bacteria mutates to become immune to our existing drugs doesn't mean we can't find a new drug. After a hundred years of not using any of 2004's best antibiotics, the new bacteria might just be vulnerable to the stuff we've got now, too, even if it's become immune to the next generation of drugs we develop. And as we understand more about the biology of the situation, in particular how bacteria react in the human body and such, it's possible we can develop "contrasting" drugs. So you first treat an infection with Drug A. This drug is designed to force the bacteria to evolve in a particular way, which makes it vulnerable to Drug B. Drug B does the same but for Drug C. And so on until you remove the bacteria's ability to resist Drug A and you start over again. I'm not sure how plausible or near-term that is, but I can imagine it, so it's not a complete load!

      I should probably shut up, as I'm obviously no biologist. But I have faith that, for the time being at least, medical science is capable of keeping up with this sort of problem.

      • You should stick with your second paragraph.
        Our antibiotics are derived from the natural
        defenses of molds etc. which took Bob knows
        how long to develop. We won't be able to keep
        churning out "new" antibiotics at the drop of
        a hat, and it sure as hell isn't possible to
        do "breed" bacteria in the wild as you propose.
    • I always thought the problem with anti-bacterial products is that they deprive your body of low-level exposure to bacteria & other bugs and hence it doesn't build up a good immunity. So I don't think your analogy was a good one.

      Sampling your own nasal secretions (snot :) is also supposed to help you boost your immune system, but I think it's better if you do it as a kid.

    • There's also a concern/rumor/claim that anti-biotic soap is no more effective at killing bacteria than non-anti-biotic soap. I've even seen both claims made in the same slashdot post.

      It's hard to believe that both are true.

      Also, it's important to remember that many anti-biotic substances are naturally occuring. Anti-biotics have been present in the environment for millions of years at completely uncontrolled levels. If it were possible for a super-bacterium to evolve, it is likely that it would have do
      • According to Dr. Alan Greene [drgreene.com], you are correct in your supposition that independent studies contradict each other regarding this issue. However, both are true, from a certain point of view:

        "Is antibacterial soap the best cleansing agent? The scientific studies comparing antibacterial soap to regular soap give apparently contradictory results. Some studies show it is better, others that it is worse, and others seem to show no difference. Taken together, these studies indicate that antibacterial soaps are

  • Go for Organic. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Domini (103836) <lailoken@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @05:26AM (#10629330) Journal
    It's slightly more expensive, but we do have a choice to go for Organic [ota.com] produce. I can buy almost anything organic, including steak, eggs, milk, coffee, fruit and vegetables from a local Woolworths.

    But then again, I guess it's difficult to change with such a huge fast-food industry.

  • by nano2nd (205661) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @06:34AM (#10629475) Homepage
    From the UK newspaper The Observer back in the summer..

    Stay Calm Everyone! [guardian.co.uk]

    Prozac, albeit tiny amounts, now exists in our rivers and groundwater.
  • Excellent! (Score:5, Funny)

    by CodeWanker (534624) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @08:15AM (#10629752) Journal
    Does this mean that drinking out of the jacuzzi in the Asian "Health Spa" I frequent protect me from any love bugs I might get there?
  • These people produce antibiotics, which they dump into their environment. Some bacteria die because of this. Some bacteria live and reproduce in their new environment.

    These bacteria produce toxins, which they dump into their environment. Some people die because of this. Some people live and reproduce in their new environment.

    What made you think you were an exception?

  • ...what Kerry's new prescription drug plan is!

  • I am searching for the reference to the kid who won the science fair using the laser based method of detecting antibiotics in the water supply... apparently he cause an uproar over this very issue.
  • I'm fascinated to see monensin, used exclusively in agricultural applications for growth enhancement in cattle - does this take the pressure off Mc Donalds et al for causing obesity?

Nothing is rich but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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