An antibiotic resistance gene has been detected in wastewater treatment plants in northern China, according to a new report. The discovery could trigger a rise in antimicrobial resistance and hence a health threat.
New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 (NDM-1) is a gene that can cause antimicrobial resistance. Specifically, NDM-1 is an enzyme that makes bacteria resistant to a broad range of beta-lactam antibiotics. Beta-lactam antibiotics) are a broad class of antibiotics and among the most commonly used worldwide.
NDM-1 was first detected in a Klebsiella pneumoniae isolate from a Swedish patient of Indian origin in 2008 (the bacterium can cause destructive changes to human lungs via inflammation and hemorrhage). NDM-1 was later detected in bacteria in India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada,and Japan. It has now been found in China.
Researchers have found NDM-1 in wastewater and sludge from two treatment plants in China. The research group consisted of teams from Rice University in Houston, Texas, and from Nankai and Tianjin Universities in China.
In addition to detecting the gene, and perhaps of greater concern, the scientists also isolated a bacterial strain carrying NDM-1 that was resistant to the eight antibiotics that they tested. This suggests that more bacteria may become resistant as wastewater is released into the environment. It follows that the more prevalent these resistance genes are in the environment, the more opportunity they have to spread.
The detection of NDM-1 has been reported in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, in a paper titled "Proliferation of Multidrug-Resistant New Delhi Metallo-β-lactamase Genes in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants in Northern China."