Treating municipal wastewater solids at higher temperatures may be an effective tool in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, says researchers from the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.
Heating the solid waste to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius) was particularly effective in eliminating the genes that confer antibiotic resistance.
These genes are used by bacteria to become resistant to multiple antibiotics, which are then known as “superbacteria” or “superbugs.”
The research paper was recently published in Environmental Science & Technology, a journal of the American Chemical Society and highlighted in the society’s weekly magazine Chemical & Engineering News.
Antibiotics are used to treat numerous bacterial infections, but the ever-increasing presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has raised substantial concern about the future effectiveness of antibiotics.
“The current scientific paradigm is that antibiotic resistance is primarily caused by antibiotic use, which has led to initiatives to restrict antibiotic prescriptions and curtail antibiotic use in agriculture,” said civil engineering associate professor Timothy LaPara, an expert in both wastewater treatment and microbiology who led the new University of Minnesota study. “Our research is one of the first studies that considers a different approach to thwarting the spread of antibiotic resistance by looking at the treatment of municipal wastewater solids.”
Lab research by LaPara and his graduate student David Diehl shows that anaerobic digestion of municipal wastewater solids at high temperatures (as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius) is capable of destroying up to 99.9 percent of various genes that confer resistance in bacteria.
“Our latest research suggests that high temperature anaerobic digestion offers a novel approach to slow the proliferation of antibiotic resistance,” LaPara said.
Source: University of Minnesota, USA