Wastewater based epidemiology a powerful tool to track antibiotic resistance within communities

Study by CSIR-IICT shows how wastewater-based epidemiology can be an effective health management tool for its ability to offer insights such as seasonal fluctuations in abundance of antibiotic resistance genes

Updated - July 12, 2024 08:29 am IST

Published - July 11, 2024 06:52 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is now being used to track antibiotic resistance within communities, offering a glimmer of hope for the future of public health. This has become imperative with antibiotics increasingly failing against resistant strains, posing a grave health threat.

Since microbes and their resistance genes move freely among humans, animals and the environment, WBE can effectively track resistance trends in communities on a large scale.

Scientists at CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) conducted one such study recently in an urban community for five months and found that 50% of the samples detected anti-biotic resistance genes (ARGs), with detection frequency going, at times, as high as 61%, especially in winter months.

Further analysis of the samples had showed specific genes clustering into distinct modules, indicating complex interactions and further co-evolution of the resistance genes. The sampling was carried out from December 2021 to April 2022 to capture the diversity and dynamics of resistance, said lead investigator and chief scientist of the institute’s bioengineering and environmental sciences lab S. Venkata Mohan.

The study demonstrated the power of the WBE as a proactive health management tool since it offers valuable insights such as seasonal fluctuations in resistance gene abundance. It thus empowers healthcare professionals and policymakers to take targeted actions, he explained.

The chief scientist said the data can be used in evidence-based recommendations for clinical decision-making, therapy choices and in taking up public health campaigns or issue specific regulations on antibiotic use to safeguard public health.

The WBE data can also guide improvements in sanitation practices, further curbing the environmental spread of resistance genes. Research scholar Yamini J. was part of the study.

The research paper has been published in the latest edition of Clean Water journal.

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