News Stories

Trucks Spread Superbugs

Humans aren't the only ones who use roads to travel from place to place--superbugs do too! Antibiotic resistant E. Coli is much more common in rural villages situated along roads than in towns located away from them, which suggests that roads play a major role in the spread or containment of antibiotic resistant bacteria, or superbugs.

Public health expert Joe Eisenberg says, "We focus so much on the individual, and if they do or don't take antibiotics, but we're learning more and more that there's a broader environmental and social context in which antibiotic resistance happens. Other important factors that affect the spread of antibiotic resistance are the rates at which people introduce new strains due to movement in and out of the region, as well as poor water quality and sanitation that allow for the transmission of antibiotic resistant strains." Both of these factors are influenced by the presence of roads.

While increased antibiotic use over long periods of time can increase antibiotic resistance with bacteria such as E. Coli, when antibiotics are taken for much shorter periods of time, they have a different effect on bacteria. For those bacteria, taking antibiotics amplifies antibiotic resistant bacteria that already exists in the individual, by killing the non-resistant E. coli., which encourages the superbug strains to multiply and take over in the gut.

Eisenberg says, "If we want to think about how we deal with antibiotic resistance we have got to think about the broader environmental forces that cause the spread of antibiotic resistance, in addition to how doctors prescribe antibiotics to individuals."

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