Engineering researcher finds new way to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Nov 22, 2010

New findings by civil engineering researchers in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering shows that treating municipal wastewater solids at higher temperatures may be an effective tool in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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 , 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."

Antibiotic resistant bacteria develop in the gastrointestinal tracts of people taking antibiotics. These bacteria are then shed during defecation, which is collected by the existing sewer infrastructure and passed through a municipal wastewater treatment facility. The majority of wastewater treatment plants incubate the solid waste, called sludge, in a "digester" that decomposes organic materials. Digesters are often operated at 95 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 37 degrees Celsius).

"Many digesters are operated at our body temperature, which is perfect for resistant bacteria to survive and maybe even grow," LaPara said.

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. In contrast, conventional anaerobic digestion (operated at 95 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit or about 37 degrees Celsius) demonstrated only a slight ability to eliminate the same set of .

"Our latest research suggests that high temperature anaerobic digestion offers a novel approach to slow the proliferation of ." LaPara said. "This new method could be used in combination with other actions, like limiting the use of antibiotics, to extend the lifespan of these precious drugs."

LaPara also pointed out that raising the temperature of anaerobic digestion at wastewater treatment plants is not cost-prohibitive because the digesting produce methane gas that can be used to heat the reactor.

Explore further: Scientists make diseased cells synthesize their own drug

More information: To view the most recent research report published in Environmental Science & Technology, visit z.umn.edu/lapara

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Antibiotics have long-term impacts on gut flora

Nov 01, 2010

Short courses of antibiotics can leave normal gut bacteria harbouring antibiotic resistance genes for up to two years after treatment, say scientists writing in the latest issue of Microbiology, published on 3 November.

Soil studies reveal rise in antibiotic resistance

Dec 23, 2009

Antibiotic resistance in the natural environment is rising despite tighter controls over our use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, Newcastle University scientists have found.

Probing Question: How does antibiotic resistance happen?

Mar 05, 2009

Before Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin in 1928, there were any number of unpleasant ways that bacteria could kill you. Countless women died from infection after childbirth, and a simple chest cold could turn into ...

Recommended for you

Scientists make diseased cells synthesize their own drug

4 hours ago

In a new study that could ultimately lead to many new medicines, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have adapted a chemical approach to turn diseased cells into unique manufacturing ...

A new synthetic amino acid for an emerging class of drugs

Aug 31, 2014

Swiss scientists have developed a new amino acid that can be used to modify the 3-D structure of therapeutic peptides. Insertion of the amino acid into bioactive peptides enhanced their binding affinity up to 40-fold. Peptides ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

junkd
not rated yet Nov 29, 2010
Reliable supplier, rapid delivery, guarantee!
http://star-of-he..._id=5831