Researchers at the George Brown School of Engineering at Rice University in the United States say that microplastics in the environment are a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Eurekalert states.
A study in the Journal of Hazardous Materials describes how the ultraviolet aging of microplastics in the environment make them apt platforms for antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs). These genes are armored by bacterial chromosomes, phages and plasmids, all biological vectors that can spread antibiotic resistance to people, lowering their ability to fight infections.
According to a study, under the influence of ultraviolet light and due to the decomposition of microplastics in the environment, it becomes a suitable place for the “settlement” of antibiotic resistance genes.
As a result, these genes may reduce the human body’s ability to fight infections. In addition, research has shown that leaching chemicals from plastic due to aging increases the susceptibility of vectors to horizontal gene transfer.
This can make the environment conducive to antibiotic resistance.
“We were surprised to discover that microplastic aging enhances horizontal ARG,” said Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Rice-based Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment Center. “Enhanced dissemination of antibiotic resistance is an overlooked potential impact of microplastics pollution.”
Scientists have noted that microplastic surfaces can be aggregation sites for susceptible bacteria, accelerating gene transfer, promoting bacterial contact with each other and the chemicals released.
Microplastics in the ocean can cause a rapid rise of cancer cases. And besides microplastics, there are also microfibers. When you wash your clothes, these fibers enter the environment, traveling through sewer pipes into rivers and seas. Read about the current environmental issues in the UAE and worldwide in our exclusive interview with Zayed Intl. Foundation for the Environment.