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USAID research: Agriculture runoffs creating drug-resistant bacteria in freshwater

By Imtiaz Hussain
October 14, 2018

HYDERABAD: Industrial effluents and agricultural runoffs are begetting antibiotic resistant bacteria in ground and surface water, terminating the efficacy of medicines to fight off diseases, researchers and academicians said.

Rasool Bux Mahar, deputy director of US-funded water centre at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro said the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) in different water sources lessen the efficacy of antibiotic medicines prescribed by doctors to the patients.

“The presence of ARB is found in the groundwater, surface water, and wastewater in Hyderabad and its surroundings due to industrial wastes, agricultural runoff, and wastes of humans and animals,” Mahar said, sharing findings of a research study at a seminar.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) funded the project study on identification of antibiotic resistant bacteria in various sources of waters of Hyderabad city and its surroundings.

Mahar, who’s also the principal investigator of the study, said ARB is a global public issue today. “If the problem of antibiotic resistance shall not properly be tackled then 10 million deaths will occur and Asian countries will mostly be affected,” he added.

Mahar said presence of bacteria was observed in drinking water samples that showed a significant amount of heterotrophic plate count in which the most of the organisms isolated from the samples were pseudomonas, shigella, vibrio, and e-coli.

“Bacterial isolates identified in the study findings have a potential threat to the people living in Hyderabad,” he added.

The deputy director said water distribution network has some technical flaws which deteriorate water quality and provide conditions for the flourishing of bacterial growth.

Mahar said community, government and relevant authorities might be sensitised through awareness campaigns and people should avoid self-medication and excessive use of antibiotics.

“Hospital waste and waste water should be treated properly before its disposal into water bodies because they contain a greater amount of antibiotics,” he added.

“Researchers may develop innovative techniques to deal with antibiotic resistant bacteria more efficiently and the complete disinfection of antibiotic resistant bacteria will only be possible when there will be a proper disinfection system in water treatment plants and flaws in the water distribution network be eliminated or improved.”

Zulfiqar Ali Mirani, the co-principal investigator of the research, said microbiological analysis showed that the majority of water samples were unfit for human consumption.

Mirani, who is also a scientific officer at Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, said the study found that 70 percent of water supplied by municipal and sanitation services authority and 87 percent of river/canal and groundwater samples were not fit for cooking, drinking and washing. “Majority of reverse osmosis water samples were declared unfit due to high bacterial load,” he added.

Jeff Ullman from University of Utah said the existing environment and public behaviour should be changed according to the research-based findings.

The main purpose of the seminar was to bring government, policymakers, and relevant stakeholders together to share, deliberate, and brainstorm about the research and suggest protective measures.