Antibiotic resistant microbes in soil

University tuition is not cheap and I, like many others, had to find employment throughout my university career to help pay for courses. Unfortunately, I ended up working in a hospital dealing with patients suffering from MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (vancomycin resistant enterococcus), very disturbing and heartbreaking at the same time. A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology indicates that there is more evidence pointing towards microorganisms in the soil becoming more resistant to antibiotics, ultimately ending up in the food supply; not unlikely. For instance, the use of avoparcin in Europe, an antimicrobial drug used as a growth promoter in food producing animals was shown to be one important factor leading to VRE in animals and that foodborne VRE may cause human colonization1.
The United Press International reports:
The researchers said that trend during the past 60 years continues despite more stringent rules on the use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, as well as improved sewage treatment technology that broadly improves water quality in surrounding environments.
David Graham of Britain’s Newcastle University and his colleagues said scientists have known for years that resistance was increasing in clinical situations, but the new study is the first to quantify the same problem in the natural environment over long time-scales.
The scientists said they are concerned increased antibiotic resistance in soils could have broad consequences to public health through potential exposure from water and food supplies. They said their findings "imply there may be a progressively increasing chance of encountering organisms in nature that are resistant to antimicrobial therapy."
1. L. Clifford McDonald, Matthew J. Kuehnert, Fred C. Tenover, and William R. Jarvis. Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci Outside the Health-Care Setting: Prevalence, Sources, and Public Health Implications. Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol 3. No.3. July-September 1997. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.