Municipal Solid Waste Treatment System Increases Ambient Airborne Bacteria and Antibiotic Resistance Genes

Journal: Environmental Science and Technology

Published: 2020-03-25

DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b07641

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 9

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Research Highlight

Urban waste could be spreading antibiotic resistance

© Herianus Herianus/EyeEm/Getty

© Herianus Herianus/EyeEm/Getty

People living downwind of landfills or rubbish-burning sites could be exposed to antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs) in the air.

Household waste harbours microbes that have become resistant to antibiotics found in discarded medicines, and these can spread ARGs to other bacteria in the mix. Some suspect that urban waste treatment may contribute to airborne ARGs, which could be problematic for people living nearby.

A team that included researchers from Nankai University in China collected air samples around a landfill and waste incinerator outside Changzhou, and screened them for ARGs. They identified 16 ARGs in the air that were also present in the waste itself. ARGs were more abundant downwind than upwind, suggesting that waste-treatment sites are an important source of them.

Prolonged exposure to airborne pathogens puts people at greater risk of respiratory diseases, and the presence of ARGs in the air could render medical treatment less effective.

Supported content

  1. Environmental Science and Technology 54, 3900–3908 (2020). doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b07641
Institutions Share
MOE Key Laboratory of Pollution Processes and Environmental Criteria, NKU, China 0.67
Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Environmental Protection of Water Environment Biological Monitoring, Changzhou Environmental Monitoring Center, China 0.11
Nankai University (NKU), China 0.11
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), China 0.11