Microbiologist Tatiana Travis reads a plate to check on a bacterium's resistance to a carbapenem antibiotic in an antimicrobial resistance and characterization lab within the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

From @teamwaxman in STAT: pharma waste and antibiotic resistance

From STAT article. Original caption “Microbiologist Tatiana Travis reads a plate to check on a bacterium’s resistance to a carbapenem antibiotic at the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the CDC in Atlanta.” By DAVID GOLDMAN/AP.

Waste released from pharmaceutical plants in India and China is contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

So this is certainly interesting.  There is an opinion piece in STAT by Henry Waxman and Bill Corr from Waxman Strategies: Waste from pharmaceutical plants promotes antibiotic-resistant superbugs.  It is of interest both because we are almost certainly in need of more efforts to control the spread of antibiotic resistance and also because of who wrote it.  Waxman was in the US House of Representatives for many many many years and Corr was deputy secretary of Health and Human Services from 2009 to 2015.  So it is good they are emphasizing this.  Though I am not completely convinced by the references in here that we know a lot about how / if waste from pharma plants impact resistance.

I generally agree with the sentiments – such as this:

This is all-hands-on-deck time. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 die as a result of those infections. Globally, superbugs are estimated to cause 700,000 deaths annually, a number that could top 10 million by 2050 if we don’t take effective action.

Reducing antibiotic-laden pollution from pharmaceutical manufacturing plants is a relatively easy, affordable part of the solution.

Again, not sure about the degree of evidence at this point for a connection between pharma waste and resistance.  Regardless, it makes sense that this is a simple action we can take with a likely benefit.

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.