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Genes as Pollutants: Tracking drug-resistant DNA in the environment

A study that traces antibiotic-resistance genes in the environment indicates that they are present even in treated drinking water. The researchers behind the work and other scientists assert that the genes should be considered environmental contaminants and advocate environmental-engineering approaches toward limiting the spread of drug resistance.

In recent decades, overprescribing of antibiotics and widespread application of the drugs to farm animals have increased microbial resistance. The resistant microbes spread through human and farm populations. The antibiotics end up in human and animal waste and can reach the environment, where resistance can also develop in soil- and water-dwelling bacteria. These bacteria might then transfer the resistance genes to microbes that affect people.

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