Health Alert: Air Pollution Carries Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, Study Reveals

First Posted: Nov 28, 2016 04:00 AM EST

A new study reveals that air pollution has found to have traces of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which cannot be treated by common antibiotics. Scientists warned that these bacteria are causing some viruses untreatable.

The study was printed in the journal Microbiome. It was led by researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. The researchers have taken samples from polluted air in the city of Beijing. They said that the samples contained "DNA from genes that make bacteria resistant to the most powerful antibiotics."

Joakim Larsson, the lead author of the research, said that they studied only a small number of air samples. He further said that they need to examine the air from more places. On the other hand, he said that the air samples they analyzed showed a wide mix of different resistance genes.

In the study, the researchers analyzed 864 samples of DNA taken from humans, animals and environments worldwide, as they looked for genes associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The results indicate that the samples from Beijing had a high-level of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). It is known that Beijing, the capital of China, has severe air pollution, according to Science Alert.

The team could not identify whether the bacteria were alive in the air. On the other hand, Dr. Larsson said that it is reasonable to believe that there is a mixture of live and dead bacteria, based on other studies of air. The study has prompted the scientists to research on how to fight the spread of these bacteria into the air.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution database stated that over 80 percent of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. It is also reported that people living in the low-income cities are affected the most. This is troubling as these people living in these areas do not have access to healthcare.

WHO also states that 98 percent of cities in low-income and middle-income countries with over 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines, according to Contagion Live.

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