Irish Water Contains Dangerous ‘Superbugs’


Irish Water Contains Dangerous ‘Superbugs’

The improper use of medicines that fight germs contributes to the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR has led to the development of ‘superbugs’, resistant to many drugs. A recent report found that Irish waters have many superbugs capable of causing nasty infections that are hard to treat.


What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?

Antibiotics are drugs used to stop infections caused by bacteria. Sometimes, bacteria change when they are exposed to antibiotics and become resistant. As a result, the drugs don’t work anymore. This phenomenon is known as AMR, creating bacteria that are hard, or even impossible, to treat. The World Health Organization (WHO) says AMR is one of the top 10 health threats worldwide. By 2050, it may cause up to 10 million deaths each year.

how does antimicrobial resistance occur


The Human Activities Contributing to AMR

Misusing Antibiotics

Taking antibiotics when not needed (e.g. for viruses) is very common and can make bacteria resistant. Between 2000 and 2018, there was a 46% increase in antibiotic use, largely due to misuse. Not finishing the full course of antibiotic treatment can also cause AMR. Stopping treatment early means some bacteria can survive and develop drug resistance. 

Bad Waste Practices

Because many people and animals use antibiotics, there are a lot of these drugs in urine and faeces. When animal waste is spread on land, antibiotics can get into water. While human sewage undergoes wastewater treatment, not all antibiotics are removed. As a result, antibiotics make their way into our waters, increasing bacterial exposure and resistance. 


What Did The EPA Find in Irish Water? 

Researchers from the University of Galway, University College Dublin, and Teagasc studied water and wastewater samples from Galway, Dublin, and Cork. Some highlights from the EPA report are discussed below. 

The Presence of Superbugs. Tests showed that rivers, lakes, and other waters had bacteria resistant to many drugs. There were also ‘hotspot’ clusters in each county, mainly in urban areas, which had even more of these superbugs. 

Pharmaceutical Pollution. The study found that pollution from hospitals and nursing homes was a more significant cause of AMR in Irish waters than farming activities. 

Dangerous Antibiotics. Some antibiotics, like macrolides, are more likely to cause AMR. Within this group, clarithromycin, azithromycin, and erythromycin are the riskiest.

New Superbug Discovery. For the first time, bacteria resistant to a last-resort antibiotic, colistin, were found in Irish waters. Resistance to colistin makes superbugs especially dangerous.


Conclusion for Superbugs in Irish Waters

This report showed that water in different parts of Ireland has drug-resistant bacteria. To fight AMR, we must stop the misuse of antibiotics. Only using antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor and always taking the full prescription would help the issue. We also need to monitor Irish waters regularly for AMR to understand how superbugs spread and to protect public health. Here at Southern Scientific Services, we offer water monitoring and microbiology testing to protect against exposure to harmful bacteria.


Follow the link to learn more about our microbiology testing today!

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