In the EU, more than 25,000 people die every year from antibiotic resistant infections. These resistant strains cost an estimated £1.1 billion in extra healthcare costs.

Britain’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, has called it a threat as great as terrorism or climate change. Often, increasing resistance to these drugs is attributed to inappropriate antibiotic use. However, recent research suggests that antibiotic resistance transmission and distribution consequently occur with environmental pollution. In particular it relates strongly with the release of untreated wastewaters, metal contaminated industrial pollution. Also agricultural discharge containing resistant bacteria. As well as resistant genes in our watercourses and seas.

In a study at the University of Exeter Medical School, they assessed the amount of water ingested during different water sports. They combined this with water sampling data to estimate people’s exposure to bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Although research showed that only 0.12% of E.coli found in coastal waters were resistant to third generation cephalosporins. (An important class of antibiotic). This figure was enough to present a potential risk to water users. In particular surfers and swimmers (University of Exeter, March 2015).

Opinions are changing. It is becoming clear that reducing antibiotic resistance demands more inclusive solutions. In addition to a reduction in antibiotic use, affordable engineering solutions are required to treat waste waters. By having greater consideration of antibiotic resistance.

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