Pesticides and antibiotics are polluting streams across Europe, a study has found. Scientists say the contamination is dangerous for wildlife and may increase the development of drug-resistant microbes.
More than 100 pesticides and 21 drugs were detected in the 29 waterways analysed in 10 European nations, including the UK. A quarter of the chemicals identified are banned, while half of the streams analysed had at least one pesticide above permitted levels.
The researchers said the high number of pesticides and drugs they found meant complex mixtures were present, the impact of which was unknown. Pesticides are acknowledged as one factor in plummeting populations of many insects and the birds that rely on them for food. Insecticides were revealed to be polluting English rivers in 2017.
“The importance of our new work is demonstrating the prevalence of biologically active chemicals in waterways all over Europe,” said Paul Johnston, at the Greenpeace research laboratories at the University of Exeter. “There is the potential for ecosystemic effects.”
The research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found herbicides, fungicides and insecticides, as well as antimicrobial drugs used in livestock. The risk to people of antimicrobial drug resistance is well known, but Johnston highlighted resistance to fungicides too. “There are some pretty nasty fungal infections that are taking off in hospitals,” he said.
One of the world’s biggest pesticide makers, Syngenta, announced a “major shift in global strategy” on Monday, to take on board society’s concerns and reduce residues in the environment.
“There is an undeniable demand for a shift in our industry,” said Alexandra Brand, the chief sustainability officer of Syngenta. “We will put our innovation more strongly in the service of helping farms become resilient to changing climates and better able to adapt to consumer requirements, including reducing carbon emissions and reversing soil erosion and biodiversity decline.”
The manmade science of modern day antibiotics is at odds with the natural science of the supportive human microbiome. Going to war with microbial life forms, antibiotics attack both infectious bacteria and the benign species of bacteria that support human health.
The destruction of the human microbiome with antibiotics is the precursor to future infections. Because commensal bacteria protect the gut wall, assist in antibody response, and aid in digestion, the loss of their kind promotes disease. As antibiotics are applied, infectious bacteria have no choice but to evolve, garnering new antibiotic-resistant traits that enhance their survival and potential lethality. The ongoing evolution of drug resistant HIV, TB, malaria, MRSA, E. coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, and carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) poses a grave threat to the world, with superbug infections having claimed the lives of 50,000 people in the U.S. and Europe alone.
The side effects of antibiotics do not end with the slow death of the human microbiome and the threat of antibiotic resistance. One man almost lost his life from an internal burning reaction after taking a two week round of antibiotics to treat a staph infection. Thirty-eight year-old Josh Dennis from Colorado suffered severe blisters and burns over 90 percent of his body and was temporarily blinded. He suffered from a side effect called toxic epidermal necrolysis, a debilitating condition where the skin cells, mucus membranes, eyes, and genitals begin to burn and blister indiscriminately.
There’s also the story of 41-year-old Chris Dannelly, who was prescribed a brand name antibiotic called levofloxacin for the flu. After a second dose of the antibiotic, he began to suffer from a syndrome that causes the death of muscle fibers and the release of myoglobin into his bloodstream. He didn’t survive.
Now researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have found 391 case studies where patients suffered seizures, hallucinations, delirium and other brain problems after taking properly prescribed antibiotics. The problem was not isolated to one type of antibiotic drug. The neurological side effects were reported among 54 kinds of antibiotics from twelve different classes. The delirium-inducing antibiotics included oral forms such as sulfonamides and ciprofloxacin and intravenous types such as penicillin. Symptoms of psychosis were associated with procaine, penicillin, sulfonamides, macrolides, and fluoroquinolones.
About half of the reactions (47 percent) included hallucinations or delusions. Fourteen percent of the reactions were seizures. Fifteen percent of the injured patients showed muscle twitching and five percent lost some degree of motor control, primarily from metronidazole. The antibiotics negatively impacted their brain wave activity, with 70 percent showing abnormal EEG (electroencephalogram) readings. Their brain disorder symptoms came to a halt when the antibiotic treatments were stopped.
When it comes to the elderly, delirium can be a serious issue, especially if the old person is stubborn. The brain confusion brought on by antibiotics causes conflict with the person’s strong will, making them agitated, angry, and verbally or physically violent. Cognitive decline doesn’t automatically come with old age. It can be brought on by properly prescribed antibiotics that elicit brain disorders or the accumulation of neuro-toxic mercuryand aluminum from flu shots. If they have persistently used antibiotics throughout their lifetime, the damage is multiplied, with nutrient absorption loss, poor digestion, mineral deficiencies, and weakened immune response.
The number one health goal of any adult should be to avoid antibiotics, unless there is a life threatening infection. There are a variety of plant-based anti-microbials, anti-virals, and anti-fungal compounds that can help prevent and ease the symptoms of illness. The Western medical system has not evolved quickly enough to know how to produce and administer these medicines. Healing herbal foods such as garlic, clove, ginger, goldenseal, licorice root, tea tree, lavender, mullein, black cumin seed, astragalus, elderberry, echinacea, raw honey, turmeric, cinnamon, etc., support the body’s natural immune defenses, instead of destroying them. Herbal medicine is generally supportive of the human microbiome and strengthens the mucosal, gastrointestinal, and overall humoral response of the immune system.
US farmers have slashed the use of antibiotics in meat and milk by a third, new figures from the Food and Drug Administration reveal.
The amount of antibiotics sold to farmers dropped by almost three million kilograms between 2016 and 2017, according to the new data.
In 2017, the FDA banned the use of antibiotics to make animals grow quicker, a practice known as growth promotion. The new rules meant the drugs, formerly available over the counter, could only be obtained with a veterinarian’s order.
The new data is the first indication of the success of the ban in reducing antibiotic use in US agriculture, which is considered key to stemming the growing threat of superbugs which can infect humans.
The overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and in livestock has accelerated the rise of resistant bacteria, commonly known as superbugs. They can cause life-threatening infections as they are resistant to the drugs normally used to kill them. More than 153,000 people in the US died of superbug infections in 2010, a recent study found.
The European Union banned using antibiotics as growth promoters in 2001. But the practice was still legal in the US – one of the biggest producers of meat in the world – until more than a decade and a half later. READ MORE AT…
Common Dreams - by Jessica Corbett - Oct. 25th, 2018
The European Parliament on Thursday approved new rules for medicine use on healthy livestock in an effort to battle superbugs. (Image: Avicultura.com)
“Antibiotic resistance is a real sword of Damocles, threatening to send our health care system back to the Middle Ages.”
In a move celebrated by experts and activists who continue to raise alarm about the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance—fueled in part by rampant overuse of medicines in agriculture—the European Parliament on Thursday approved new rules for antibiotic use on healthy farm animals.
“This is a hugely important breakthrough for human and animal health and is by far the more serious attempt that Europe has ever made to achieve responsible antibiotic use in farming,” declaredCóilín Nunan, campaign manager of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, a coalition of EU-based medical, health, agricultural, environmental, consumer, and animal welfare groups.
About 73 percent of the world’s medicines are currently used on livestock, Nunan noted, and “farming accounts for about two thirds of all antibiotic use in Europe, so if the legislation is implemented correctly, we should be seeing very large reductions in use in years to come.”
The “long-awaited” law, which is set to take effect in 2022, will limit preventative use of antibiotics on groups of animals; empower European regulators to designate certain medicines for human use only; impose restrictions on imports; and encourage new research and protections for new drugs.
A new study has found that some of the world’s most widely used herbicides, Roundup (glyphosate) and Kamba (dicamba), increase the rate of antibiotic resistance development in bacteria by a factor of up to 100,000 times faster than occurs without the herbicide.
Both herbicides are used on GM crops engineered to tolerate them.
The new study adds to a growing body of evidence that herbicides used on a mass industrial scale, but not intended to be antibiotics, can have profound effects on bacteria, with potentially negative implications for medicine’s ability to treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria. University of Canterbury (New Zealand) Professor Jack Heinemann, one of the study’s authors, said, “The combination of chemicals to which bacteria are exposed in the modern environment should be addressed alongside antibiotic use if we are to preserve antibiotics in the long-term.”
An important finding of the new study was that even in cases where the herbicides increase the toxicity of antibiotics they also significantly increased the rate of antibiotic resistance, which the authors say could be contributing to the greater use of antibiotics in both agriculture and medicine.
Previously these researchers found that exposures to the herbicide products Roundup, Kamba and 2,4-D or the active ingredients alone most often increased resistance, but sometimes increased the susceptibility of potential human pathogens such as Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli, depending on the antibiotic.
Prof Heinemann said, “We are inclined to think that when a drug or other chemical makes antibiotics more potent, that should be a good thing. But it also makes the antibiotic more effective at promoting resistance when the antibiotic is at lower concentrations, as we more often find in the environment. Such combinations can be like trying to put out the raging fire of antibiotic resistance with gasoline.”
The authors concluded that neither reducing the use of antibiotics nor the discovery of new ones may be sufficient strategies to avoid the post-antibiotic era. This is because bacteria may be exposed to other non-antibiotic chemicals that predispose them to evolve resistance to antibiotics more quickly. Herbicides are examples of some of the most common non-antibiotic chemicals in frequent global use. Thus antibiotic resistance may increase even if total antibiotic use is reduced, and new ones are invented, unless other environmental exposures are also controlled.
The new paper, “Agrichemicals and antibiotics in combination increase antibiotic resistance evolution” is published online in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ on October 12 and can be downloaded without charge from here.
Leaked documents reveal discarded proposals to ward off antibiotic resistance through closer scrutiny of drug firms.
The EU has scrapped plans for a clampdown on pharmaceutical pollution that contributes to the spread of deadly superbugs.
Plans to monitor farm and pharmaceutical companies, to add environmental standards to EU medical product rules and to oblige environmental risk assessments for drugs used by humans have all been discarded, leaked documents seen by the Guardian reveal.
An estimated 700,000 people die every year from antimicrobial resistance, partly due to drug-resistant bacteria created by the overuse, misuse and dumping of antibiotics.
The UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has warned that failing to act could lead to a post-antibiotic apocalypse, spelling “the end of modern medicine” as routine infections defy effective treatment.
An EU strategy for pharmaceuticals in the environment was supposed to propose ways to avert the threat, but leaked material shows that a raft of ideas contained in an early draft have since been diluted or deleted.