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China Medicine Science

Multidrug Resistance Gene Released By Chinese Wastewater Treatment Plants 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the giving-them-a-sporting-chance dept.
MTorrice writes "In recent years, increasing numbers of patients worldwide have contracted severe bacterial infections that are untreatable by most available antibiotics. Some of the gravest of these infections are caused by bacteria carrying genes that confer resistance to a broad class of antibiotics called beta-lactams, many of which are treatments of last resort. Now a research team reports that some wastewater treatment plants in China discharge one of these potent resistance genes into the environment. Environmental and public health experts worry that this discharge could promote the spread of resistance."
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Multidrug Resistance Gene Released By Chinese Wastewater Treatment Plants

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  • by retroworks (652802) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:15PM (#45722217) Homepage Journal
    Antibacterial soaps are a frankenstein. Invented as something to cure a sppoky "risk" (like "bacteria") and sold, sold, sold. Multivitamins, ADHD drugs, billions of dollars of bullshit are being sold to consumers, harnessing innate risk aversion and evolved nurture to sell snake oil. India has already used so many antibacterial products that its hospitals are a paradise for resistant staph bacteria. Go upstream from the Chinese water treatment plants, and you'll find consumers who think they are doing the right thing and protecting their families.
    • The article doesn't say anything about soaps or other drugs, only that the resistant genes exist.

      This is a general observation of how our greater biome is adapting to our generally anti-bacterial ways - including hospital grade antibiotics.

      And judging from the research done, it looks like it's already in the environment. I'm guessing that we're looking at a dip in life expectancy. Oh well.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by erroneus (253617)

        It doesn't have to.

        The best medical practices promote a healthy body which can heal itself. This means not doing anything which will compromise or weaken the immune system. And if you're a person who believes vaccines are important, then you MUST agree that prophylactic use of antibiotics and the frequent use of antibacterials weaken the immune system by reducing attackers which keep the immune system active. Why must you agree? I'm not sure I need to explain this to anyone, but just in case, I'll remin

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ColdWetDog (752185)

          No. You're being true to your nic.

          Antibacterials don't 'weaken' the immune response. Your body will make whatever antibodies it can to the bacteria irregardless of whether you use antibiotics or not. The antibiotic, if used correctly, will stop / slow down the growth of the bacteria and allow the immune system to help clear the infection. The problem with too frequent or inappropriate use of an antibiotic is that is gives the bugs more chances to develop resistance to the drug.

          Antibiotics are not so powe

          • by erroneus (253617)

            Antibacterials DO weaken the immune response because when the body encounters fewer reasons to produce immune agents, it produces fewer agents. And when that happens, getting a disease is a great deal easier.

            And no. Antibiotics and antibodies do not work in tandem like that. Not at all.

            • Nope. Go take some biology courses. The immune system is quite a bit more complex than you apparently think. And quite a bit more robust.

              And yes, antibiotics and antibodies (and T-cells and cytokines and all the rest of the stuff) works in concert.

        • by Sique (173459)
          Actually, the people you mention don't get the flu. They just get a common cold, whose symptoms are quite similar to the flu, albeit not as strong. And people who never had antibodies against the special tribe of flu they got the shot against sometimes develop unspecified symptoms like faintness or joint pains which get associated with the flu, but have nothing to do with it. Some of the symptoms of the flu are caused by the body busily creating antibodies against the infection. If you get a shot that cause
        • Ever wonder why so many people complain about getting the flu right after getting a flu shot? GUESS WHAT?!

          Thank you Jenny McCarthy for continuing to spread FUD.
          • by erroneus (253617)

            Answer then, how do vaccines work when your immune system is weakened?

            I am not saying don't get vaccinated. I am saying make sure your vaccines have a chance to work by having the immune response needed. Once again, Vaccines don't do anything but pretend to be an active disease for your body to respond to.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            No, they're not spreading FUD. What causes it is that disease symptoms are often the result of the immune system fighting the disease. Fever kills viruses, so you get a fever with the flu. Coughing and your nose running are your body trying to wash the nasties out of your body. When you get that flu shot, it won't work if the immune system doesn't see it as a threat, and when it sees a threat, you get the disease symptoms.

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @12:48AM (#45723059)

      Antibacterial soaps are a frankenstein. Invented as something to cure a sppoky "risk" (like "bacteria") and sold, sold, sold.

      Good news: The FDA is planning to restrict antibacterial additives [nytimes.com].

    • At the gym early this morning, two Fox News blondes on the bigscreen were discussing that multivitamin report. Blonde A tells about the finding that vitamins don't work, and Blonde B responds haughtily, "...But I don't use chemical vitamins. I buy the natural ones at Whole Foods!"

      Yessiree, folks. Gotta get me some of those non-chemical vitamins for my non-chemical body. I hate to think what the other party propaganda network's take on the report might be. THIS is why the Chinese are winning.

      • by mirix (1649853)

        I got a kick out of a health store selling "organic" calcium, supposedly harvested from seaweed.

        Apparently minerals derived from plants are better for you than minerals derived from... minerals.

  • by ruir (2709173) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:24PM (#45722265) Homepage
    So, I have seen my gf, parents and even myself being given by doctors high spectrum antibiotics for trivial sickness; then the disgrace of the cattle and farming industry using preemptively antibiotics just in case, for being able to maintain animals in unthinkable environments and for fattening animal and not stopping at anything, even when it is already widespread knowledge antibiotics will stop working in less than ten years time. And know it is Chinas fault???? Talking about the elephant in the room...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:45PM (#45722399)

      In all 3 circumstances, the same root cause is responsible: Big Industry.

      1) the medical profession has thousands of careers and work opportunities on the line, influenced by the mere appearance of being negligent. As a consequence, doctors routinely perscribe preventative antibiotics, as insurance not against disease, but against accusations of being negligent at healthcare providers.

      2) the meat and dairy industry is suffering from the unsavory effects that big name oligopolies introduce when they battle it out for low low prices. It costs considerably less per unit of product produced to shove 500 cattle into a pen barely big enough for 100, by essetially crating them in tiny stalls where they stand knee deep in their own shit 24/7, in front of a trough filled with corn, than it does to raise them on an open pasture. As such, marica's loe of eating beef every day of every week makes NOT using antibiotics an insensible proposition; instead of drug resistant bacteria, there would be high meat prices and meat shortages as demand far outstripped supplies. There's a LOT of cashflow at stake there.

      3) china is trying to enter into a market space where it has to compete with the shit caused by the big names in western marets, and as such, has to be competative against even the sickening shit going on listed above: the only way to do that? Do it themseves, more radically, with no oversights or controls, and offer the products even cheaper.

      The root problem in all cases?

      Money, and the inherent failing in EVERY economic model ever tendered by greedy idiots: the belief that "externalities" don't matter, and that purpetual growth in production is always possible no matter what, and that no matter how fucked up the consequences make things, "science" and "technology" will "always make it OK."

      Chew on that for awhile.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm a vegetarian, thank you.

        • That's wonderful. But doesn't change a thing.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The only way it will be resolved is for humanity to accept metastability with the environment it lives in, and humanity has spent many hundreds of thousands of years evolving in a way that depends on doing the exact opposite of that.

            Even with the handwriting burned into the goddamn wall, we as a species will still rush facefirst into the pits of that hell, and complain and lament about how good things used to be, all while murdering each other over what's left.

            It's what we always do as a species. Not once,

            • When the white man got to North America, they found the environment as full of resources as the Indians had found it when they got there over 10,000 years before.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Native americans DID NOT live in metastability. Their civilizations rose and fell so quickly they barely left the stone age.

                Check out what happened to the ancient puebloans for instance.

                They abandoned their mighty cities, because they overextended their use of ground water.

                • I think your model has led you to unwarranted assumptions. From wikipedia: "The archaeological record indicates that it was not unusual for ancient Pueblo peoples to adapt to climatic change by changing residences and locations."

                  The hills were full of gold when the white man got to California, despite the Miwok living there for millennia. And Powell encountered indians living in the Grand Canyon...

                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by Anonymous Coward

                    And yet your argument, that the white colonists encountered an environment just as rich as when the native americans arrived at the end of the preceeding iceage thousands of years before, is patently false.

                    At last 3 species of megafauna have been recorded going extinct "rapidly" after this initial human expansion.

                    That alone invalidates your argument.

                    Then of course, you have the historicaly recorded incdeces in south america involving the incla, maya, toltec, and olmec peoples. You know, where they caused ag

                    • I think the word "civilization" implies a dense population; sparse populations don't require complex societies.. Would you agree with that?

                      Any time an area is densely populated, the population will consume local resources faster than nature can replenish them, and they will rely on trade and transportation systems to sustain the population, and complex laws to maintain order.

                      Even outside of densely populated areas, humans like any other species will reproduce until the point their population can not be sus

                    • You changed the goalposts. 3 species may have died out, but you don't know the cause. It could have been environmental, because of the end of the ice age.

                      "Then of course, you have the historicaly recorded incdeces in south america involving the incla, maya, toltec, and olmec peoples."

                      I specifically said North America.

                    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                      by Anonymous Coward

                      That I am willing to accept; the fallacy that "native americans" (generic category) had that property is what I dispute. I can point out examples of clearly destructive and non-sustainable behaviors from native american cultures all day long. The difference between the native americans and the europeans was a technological gap more than anything. The europeans had better tools to exploit the environment, and naturally exploited it harder and faster.

                      Humanity's evolutionary path has been a long littany of adv

                    • Your argument is ridiculous. Their practices were eminently sustainable, and let to their culture being sustained for thousands of years with no depletion of natural resources. The depletions you cite, you can't prove were caused by American Indians. You're pushing a model for ideological reasons and ignoring any contradictory data, such as the fact that at first contact with North American Indians, the ecology was as plentiful as when they arrived in North America. Or more so, because of the end of the Ice

                    • "Humanity's evolutionary path has been a long littany of advances in how to modify the environment to better suit themselves. Tools, agriculture, medicine, culture-- they all converge on the unified objective."

                      First I'll point out that modifying the environment involves moving dirt and clearing areas of wildlife and vegetation to be replaced by agriculture and the construction of buildings, walls, and roads. It also includes pollution.

                      Making tools, in the sense of chipping rocks and whittling sticks, does

                • by DarkOx (621550)

                  You also need to consider the question of scale. If you tried to have our current population live as the native Americans did we would have considerable environmental problems. Pollution from human waste, deforestation, constant high levels of fine particulate from open fires used for heat and cooking, we'd be hunting many species to extinction etc. What is Eco-friendly for a few hundred thousand and what works for a few million is quite different.

                  Iook and places like India and Hati if you don't think so

              • When the white man got to North America, they found the environment as full of resources as the Indians had found it when they got there over 10,000 years before.

                Yeah, because there's no way of hunting more sustainable than what the Native Americans did: chase the herd of Bison off a fucking cliff so you could eat one or two of them.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Moron.

          Do you have any idea what the externalities on your lifestyle actually are?

          Here's a hint: research what monoculturing crops does to biodiversity, and the longterm impact that has on an ecosystem.
          You might just find that your "enlightened" lifestyle choice isn't so enlightened afterall.

      • by ruir (2709173)
        It is true all is done in name of profits however the cost of beef is low because of subsidies; if it werent for them, beef would be at 50 euros/kg, and a food of the rich, as it was in a not so distant past.
      • by tomhath (637240)

        In all 3 circumstances, the same root cause is responsible: Big Industry.

        1) the medical profession has thousands of careers and work opportunities on the line, influenced by the mere appearance of being negligent.

        Not in China.

        2) the meat and dairy industry is suffering from the unsavory effects that big name oligopolies introduce when they battle it out for low low prices.

        Doesn't really apply here, since the source of the bacteria is poorly managed waste treatment plants.

        3) china is trying to enter into a market space where it has to compete with the shit caused by the big names in western marets, and as such, has to be competative against even the sickening shit going on listed above: the only way to do that? Do it themseves, more radically, with no oversights or controls

        Closer to the truth. Sewage treatment plants are better than burying it in a shallow hole. But they're still not spending the extra couple of yuan to do it right.

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:39PM (#45722359)

    New Law Needed!!

    If the Doctor doesn't wash his hands every time he visits you for treatment, then the Doctor must complete the treatment and cannot charge you for it.

    This would cure MRSA REALLY quick!!

    • by tjb6 (3421769)

      No it wouldn't. Patient to patient transfer via a 3rd party (doctor/nurse/visitor/whatever) is part of the problem, but there are plenty of people arriving at hospital with these things in progress already.

      Correct use of antibiotics, and banning misuse of antibiotics (eg, as an animal feed supplement) would attack the root of the problem.

      Regular low-dose antibiotics for livestock causes the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the gut. Since bacteria have the unfortunate talent of being able to pass o

      • by sjames (1099)

        Actually there are genetically distinct resistant bacteria that thrive primarily in the hospital environment.

        When hospitals are socking patients with ruinous bills, is it so much to ask that they wash their hands? Do they need to hire preschool teachers to remind them to wash their hands? Perhaps they should go stand in the corner.

        There are other issues to be addressed as well, but what should be the easiest of them is proving to be a real problem.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        Regular low-dose antibiotics for livestock causes the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the gut.

        This is problematic. If the antibiotic is prescription for humans, then access should not be allowed to use it for non-medical non-veterinary purposes.

        If there are life/limb-threatening diseases that the antibiotic is on a short list of treatments for; it should be prescription only.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Have you tried washing your hands every 15 minutes for 8 hours for days, or even months? I'm not trolling, I'm very serious, have you tried it? Do you know what happens when that protective layer of oil on the surface of the skin keeps getting removed over and over? Dry skin? No ... it's much worse than that.

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:05PM (#45722489) Homepage

    Not good! So basically, gene NDM-1 jumps from bacteria carrying the gene to living bacteria that doesn't. I don't know exactly how this happens, but apparently this is a natural form of gene therapy. I suspect this finding in the Chinese waste water plant is the tip of the iceberg. They seem to be treating waste at the most basic level by using lots of chlorine prior to discharging the treated waste. Nothing abnormal about that. I'm willing to bet that waste water treatment plants in every nation have this exact same issue! Hardy little buggers.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      They seem to be treating waste at the most basic level by using lots of chlorine prior to discharging the treated waste.

      There are plenty of nasties that will survive chlorine treatment; namely Cryptosporidium, so even that is inadequate --- they should be adding UV and other treatments that truly sterilize and destroy dangerous genetic material

      The same applies equally to waste water treatment in other countries.

    • Not good! So basically, gene NDM-1 jumps from bacteria carrying the gene to living bacteria that doesn't. I don't know exactly how this happens, but apparently this is a natural form of gene therapy.

      Plasmid transfer. [wikipedia.org]

      I suspect this finding in the Chinese waste water plant is the tip of the iceberg. They seem to be treating waste at the most basic level by using lots of chlorine prior to discharging the treated waste. Nothing abnormal about that. I'm willing to bet that waste water treatment plants in every nation have this exact same issue! Hardy little buggers.

      It may be worse than that. I found this last night while doing some reading related to the triclosan article but hesitated to bring it up, but it seems that chlorination itself may provide selection pressure that favors bacteria resistant to certain beta-lactam antibiotics.. [nih.gov]

      We don't actually know the exact mechanism by which chlorine kills or damages bacteria, but we do know that increased permeability of the cell membrane enhances its lethality [nih.gov] (but is not mechanism of lethality in and

  • Maybe my knowledge of biology is a bit lacking, but doesn't a gene need an organism? It sounds like they are talking about drug resistant bacteria, which have a traits of their DNA.

    It's just as annoy as cop shows where look for DNA samples. You're not sampling the DNA with your cotton swab, you're attempting to capture cells, from which you can extract the DNA.

    Then again, we're talking about two of the same groups (news media and fictional cop shows) where they'd both easily say "hack the mainframe".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Bacteria swap genes out in the open. Also known as 'lateral gene transfer'.

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        That still requires the bacteria, not free roaming genes floating around in the water.

        • Nope. Plasmid transmission can occur with naked DNA. Bacterial cells will preferentially try to suck in DNA and RNA. While it does so mostly to get the building blocks to make new DNA and tries to degrade the nucleic acids into little tasty bits, sometimes whole plasmids (think tiny chromosomes) survive and multiply. Some bacteria preferentially try to ingest plasmid DNA, perhaps as a mechanism for increased gene variability. It's a nice trick. Instead of trying to hack out a point mutation that gives

          • by JWSmythe (446288)

            So, you're saying this is where the zombie apocalypse is starting, eh?

            [puts on his biohazard suit, and grabs a crowbar]

            Ok, I'm ready.

            • I'd worry about it if you were an E. coli, but organisms higher up on the complexity ladder don't eat naked plasmids. That's a trick for the prokaryotes.

              Apparently, we just have to worry about rouge vaccines. And politicians.

    • Re:Gene discharged?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:59PM (#45722763) Homepage Journal

      Basically what the AC said. Bacteria don't have sexes, but they still swap genes via various ways, and are actually able to incorporate genes found in the environment. Lateral gene transfer is one of those 'oh wow' things when you get into what was at least in my time, college level biology.

      Ever play bioshock and remember how you'd get powers via drinking or shooting yourself up with something? That's sort of what bacteria do in real life. The bacteria 'consumes' the genetic material and incorporates it in with it's own.

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

        Ah. I'm short any college biololgy books here, and college was a long time ago. I remember .. umm .. drinking.. and that one girl.. ahhh...

        I understand what you're saying though. I still don't like the phrasing, but I see how it is accurate. :)

    • I suspect that they are talking about 'genes being released' because they are using some sort of "metagenomic [wikipedia.org]" technique.

      Traditionally, if you wanted to study bacteria, you'd take samples, haul them back to the lab, plate them out, try to grow them in culture, then do your tests. Trouble is, not all organisms grow under those conditions. With gene sequencing now cheap and fast, you can go the alternate route of just grabbing a sample, grinding it up, and sequencing everything. You lose the ability to tri
  • No I am not joking. Given China's history are abusing and murdering it's own citizens, this is a likely suspect. If this is true, it is not only insane. it should be criminal. I may be wrong, if so, someone tell me why they would release this in a nations water supply for any other reason. It is sad we say we live in a age of military/social insanity where atrocities are committed against people in the name of whatever is convenient at the time to blame. It is a shame such a small group of people are so cap
    • by Firethorn (177587)

      No I am not joking. Given China's history are abusing and murdering it's own citizens, this is a likely suspect.

      You're neglecting KISS, Occam's Razor, not attributing malice to something that can be explained by general incompetence, etc...

      Basically I see Chinese officials/operators discharging raw sewage simply because it's easier/cheaper as a far more believable explanation than trying to spread disease as a form of population control. Why?
      1. There are cheaper ways
      2. This wouldn't be discriminatory enough. Remember that the powerful rich people can get sick as well, and spreading resistance to the 'best', most

  • I have cold n cough... So do 5 of my friends.. Whom should I blame?
  • Summary is garbage (Score:5, Informative)

    by russotto (537200) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:59PM (#45722765) Journal

    Beta lactam resistance is common. That's the class of antibiotics which includes penicillin; not an antibiotic of last resort by any means. (Resistance is so common that if you're prescribed a beta lactam antibiotic nowadays, it'll probably be compounded with a beta lactamase inhibitor) Since beta lactam resistance is so common, the gene will no doubt be common in the waste stream, not just in China but everywhere.

    • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @02:05AM (#45723413)

      Beta lactam resistance is common. That's the class of antibiotics which includes penicillin; not an antibiotic of last resort by any means.

      It's also the category which includes carbapenems like Imipenem and Meropenem which are last resort drugs. In particular, the production of metallo-beta-lactamases like NDM-1 is a key adaptation to resist them, and the article highlights the risk specifically to neutralizing carbapenems as the main cause of concern.

  • Now there is money to be made in multi-drug resistant jeans!

  • not futile?

  • by MrKaos (858439)
    What could possibly go wrong!
  • by gaiageek (1070870) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @06:43AM (#45724481) Homepage
    It's nice to see that China is finally releasing dissidents.
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @07:06AM (#45724545)

    Just because they found it 1 place that they looked, doesn't mean its not NOT in other places too.

    Uneducated consumers + modern denial of causality + business interests = fail. You have ignorant parents who buy antibacterial everything because its "for the children" and because after all, they need to protect theirs, and it probably wont turn into MRSA _for them_, so shouldn't they do everything they can,etc. etc. Ditto with food - people buying shit at Walmart because they need to save money, meanwhile their neighbors lose their jobs and their kids end up playing with cadmium laced toys, but hey, they need to save 3 dollars on that gizmo.... Add the business interests capitalizing on this ignorance and philosophical gap (A !is !A) and you end up with the shitstorm we're in.

    Moral: know what you're buying, know why you're buying it.

  • Definitely a Borg joke in there somewhere.

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