MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2018

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria thriving in Hudson River

A recent study, published in July's issue of Journal of Water and Health, found multiple bacteria resistant to ampicillin and tetracycline, drugs used for the treatment of a multitude of ailments, in the Hudson River.

"If you find antibiotic-resistant bacteria in an ecosystem, it's hard to know where they're coming from," Co-author of the study and Microbiologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Andrew Juhl said. "In the Hudson, we have a strong case to make that it's coming from untreated sewage."

An earlier study conducted in 2002 also found drug-resistant bacteria in the river. Scientists have a strong case to believe the bacteria is coming from combined-sewer overflow, which occurs when sewage-treatment centers are unable to function properly during heavy rainfall and raw sewage overflows into the river. Authorities are concerned the bacteria can cause significant damage to people who have weak immune systems.

"They could be difficult to treat in people with compromised immune systems," Dr. Stephen Morse, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, said. "If I were inclined to swim in the Hudson, quite truthfully I'd look to this paper for the places to stay away from."

The study found the drug-resistant bacteria between the Tappan Zee Bridge and lower Manhattan. Although the water quality of the water is not at all ideal, it has made significant improvements in the past decade. Studies like this one can encourage further initiatives to keep the water clean.

"The results from this study are significant because they help us to understand the processes involved in the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria through the environment, but also because they provide added incentive to reduce sewage pollution into our waterways," Microbiologist and Co-author of the study Gregory O'Mullan said.