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Antibiotic resistance also travels aboard clouds

One of the biggest environmental and health problems of our time, antibiotic resistance is caused by intensive breeding and drug abuse

(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – It was 1980 when “The Fog”, the killer fog, a cult film for horror lovers. Now, researchers at Université Laval and Université Clermont Auvergne have discovered a similar phenomenon: clouds, in fact, host bacteria with antibiotic resistance in concentrations comparable to other natural environments. The study was published in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

This is not good news, since antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest environmental and health problems of our time. Antibiotic contamination brought on by humankind’s careless use ultimately leads to the development of microorganisms resistant to treatment. The target organisms of antibiotics behave similarly to how pesticides lose their fatal effect on pest evolution after a few years.

High levels of antibiotics are present in both farm animals and our waters, where they enter the food chain. Antibiotic-resistant genes in bacteria are now known to be airborne.

The research team examined this occurrence by taking samples of the clouds over the Puy de Dôme, a dormant volcano in the Massif Central region of France. They carried out 12 sampling sessions over the course of two years at a research station 1465 meters high.

Analysis of the samples revealed that they contained on average about 8000 bacteria per milliliter of cloud water, with a minimum of 330 and peaks of 30 thousand. Between 5% and 50% could be alive and potentially active.

“These bacteria usually live on the surface of vegetation or soil – explains Florent Rossi, researcher at Université Laval – They are aerosolized by wind or human activities, and some of them rise into the atmosphere and participate in the formation of clouds”.
Depending on the area in which the clouds formed, the composition of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is different: for example, in those of continental formation, there are more antibiotic-resistant bacteria related to animal husbandry than those formed on the sea.

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