New study links common herbicides and antibiotic resistance

October 12, 2018, University of Canterbury
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new study finds that bacteria develop antibiotic resistance up to 100,000 times faster when exposed to the world's most widely used herbicides, Roundup (glyphosate) and Kamba (dicamba) and antibiotics compared to without the herbicide.

A new study finds that develop up to 100,000 times faster when exposed to the world's most widely used , Roundup (glyphosate) and Kamba (dicamba) and compared to without the herbicide.

This study adds to a growing body of evidence that herbicides used on a mass industrial scale, but not intended to be antibiotics, can have profound effects on bacteria, with potentially negative implications for medicine's ability to treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria, says University of Canterbury scientist Professor Jack Heinemann, one of the study's authors.

"The combination of chemicals to which bacteria are exposed in the modern environment should be addressed alongside antibiotic use if we are to preserve antibiotics in the long-term," he says.

An important finding of the new study was that even in cases where the herbicides increase the toxicity of antibiotics they also significantly increased the rate of antibiotic resistance, which the study's authors say could be contributing to the greater use of antibiotics in both agriculture and medicine.

Previously these researchers found that exposure to the products Roundup, Kamba and 2,4-D or the active ingredients alone most often increased resistance, but sometimes increased susceptibility of potential human pathogens such as Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli depending on the antibiotic.

"We are inclined to think that when a drug or other chemical makes antibiotics more potent, that should be a good thing. But it also makes the antibiotic more effective at promoting resistance when the antibiotic is at lower concentrations, as we more often find in the environment" Professor Heinemann says.

"Such combinations can be like trying to put out the raging fire of antibiotic with gasoline."

Explore further: Antibiotic resistance can be caused by small amounts of antibiotics

More information: Brigitta Kurenbach et al. Agrichemicals and antibiotics in combination increase antibiotic resistance evolution, PeerJ (2018). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.5801

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Physicists 'flash-freeze' crystal of 150 ions

February 20, 2019

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have "flash-frozen" a flat crystal of 150 beryllium ions (electrically charged atoms), opening new possibilities for simulating magnetism at the quantum ...

The holy grail of nanowire production

February 20, 2019

Nanowires have the potential to revolutionize the technology around us. Measuring just 5-100 nanometers in diameter (a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter), these tiny, needle-shaped crystalline structures can alter ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.