Bacterial Addicts

Education helps keep kids off drugs. But what about BACTERIA?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

When humans take drugs, our bodies don’t use the whole dose. The leftovers are just peed out. This might not seem like a big deal. But wastewater treatment facilities can’t filter out these drugs! So they get dumped into nearby water.

Emma Rosi at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies was curious. How do drugs transform the environment?

Rosi looked at groups of bacteria that form slimy layers on rocks in streams. She studied how these bacteria react to drugs. Many die when they come in contact with drugs. But the ones that survive take over.

Interestingly, the size of the HUMAN population had an effect on the BACTERIAL one! City dwelling bugs are very different than those in country streams. And these urban bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.

One of these bugs is especially nasty, causing infections and, ugh, diarrhea. With their resistance to antibiotics, treating these diseases will become harder.

But if we can get more PEOPLE off drugs, maybe we can help our urban bacteria to JUST SAY NO!