Scientists say antibiotic resistance spreads through air

Researchers say the startling spread of infections proves how bad the antibiotic-resistant bacteria problem has become.

Fog in the San Francisco Bay Area may represent a huge highway for genes that create perilous super bugs. The increase of super-bacteria through overuse of antibiotics may be emerging out of the air we breathe.

The frightening spread of infections proves how bad this super- bacteria problem has become. According to the World Health Organization, 500,000 people across 22 countries had this type of infection that is almost impossible to treat.

These are extremely dangerous because they carry ARGs, (antibiotic resistance genes), that protect them from most drugs. ARGs usually spread when a lucky superbug survives after an antibiotic dosage kills most of its comrades.

This allows the superbug to multiply, creating its own colony of dependents. These dependents share its superior genetic material. However, the team behind the new study discovered that in these ARGs it could spread differently. “ARGs could travel through air to remote regions or other places, where antibiotics on the other hand are less used,” said study author Maosheng Yao Ph.D. of Peking University’s College of Environmental Sciences.

Yao says ARGs represent bacteria’s second, more difficult-to-manage method of accumulating genes. Bacteria can inject each other with genetic material and the effects are permanent because they encode in the DNA of the recipient bacteria.

This process is horizontal transfer. Air currents that swirl in urban environments circulate around millions of people daily and increase the odds of a typical resistant bacteria meeting an antibiotic-resistant one.

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