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Episode 63: World Rivers Flooded with Antibiotics

A new study has found a high level of antibiotics in the world's rivers with some concentrations up to 300 times higher than what's considered safe.

SBS Italian news, with a slower pace. This is Slow Italian, Fast Learning, the very best of the week’s news, read at a slower pace, with Italian and English text available.

Italian

Mentre l'Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità lancia l'allarme sul fatto che il globo sta esaurendo gli antibiotici ancora efficaci, i risultati dei ricercatori della University of York nel Regno Unito hanno a loro volta lanciato un allarme globale.

Campioni di acqua sono stati presi da decine di fiumi in tutto il mondo, e i livelli più alti di inquinamento da antibiotici sono stati riscontrati nel sub continente asiatico e in Africa e Sud America.

Un fiume in Bangladesh ha registrato livelli 300 volte superiori a quelli ritenuti sicuri.

Uno degli autori del rapporto, il Dr John Wilkinson, ha detto alla B-B-C che lo studio è il primo ad identificare veramente quali sono le aree chiave della esposizione ambientale agli antibiotici.

"The Palestinian west bank, the Nairobi River in Kenya, places in Bangladesh and what really ties these together we think is how waste is disposed of. The United kingdom for example we have very complex and expensive sewage system networks that more often than not designed to break down pharmaceuticals. In other parts of the world you may not have that sort of system and you can get direct discharge of sewage. A person takes a pill and it ends up going straight through us and into a sewerage network."

Il pericolo è che più i batteri vengono esposti agli antibiotici, più diventano ad essi resistenti.

Il Dott. Trent Yarwood, esperto di malattie infettive del Queensland, avverte che potremmo finire con un numero molto più alto di batteri resistenti all'ambiente.

Il Professor Stuart Curran, ingegnere ambientale della University of New South Wales, ha detto alla SBS che questa è una delle principali minacce alla salute pubblica globale.

"And there are many unknowns in terms of how we are going to be able to deal with it - bacteria are developing resistance faster than we can develop new drugs to combat them. And the concern is that we might go back to the very bad old days when we had a number of people dying from bacterial infections that are currently easily treatable."

A suo parere ci vorrà un ripensamento sostanziale - non solo su come i medici prescrivono gli antibiotici - ma anche su come funzionano gli impianti di trattamento dell'acqua.

"If the water industry is discharging antibiotics via treated sewage effluent via a riverine environment then we need to look very closely at our sewage treatment plants and how effective these sewage treatment plants are and potentially we need to work harder to try and remove trace concentrations and some of these chemicals which can cause serious environmental implications."

Il dott. John Wilkinson dice che c'è già un impatto sulla cura dei pazienti.

"There are antibiotics now that we don't generally use so much because we are seeing the level of resistance to the type of pathogens that we use. The concern at least is that we may run out of really useable anti-microbial medications."

Un preoccupante nuovo mondo per il futuro delle cure mediche...

English

With the World Health Organisation warning the globe is fast running out of antibiotics that still work, the findings by University of York researchers in the United Kingdom have sounded an alarm around the globe.

Water samples were taken from dozens of rivers around the world with the highest levels of antibiotic pollution found on the Asian sub-continent and in Africa and South America.

A river in Bangladesh recorded levels 300 times higher than is considered safe.

One of the report's authors, Dr John Wilkinson, has told the B-B-C the study is the first to really identify where the key areas are when it comes to antibiotic environmental exposure.

"The Palestinian west bank, the Nairobi River in Kenya, places in Bangladesh and what really ties these together we think is how waste is disposed of. The United Kingdom for example we have very complex and expensive sewage system networks that more often than not designed to break down pharmaceuticals. In other parts of the world you may not have that sort of system and you can get direct discharge of sewage. A person takes a pill and it ends up going straight through us and into a sewerage network."

The danger is the more bacteria is exposed to antibiotics, the more they can become resistant to them.

Queensland infectious diseases expert Dr Trent Yarwood warns we could end up with a far higher amount of resistant bacteria in the environment.

Environmental engineer Professor Stuart Curran, from the University of New South Wales, has told S-B-S it's one of the biggest threats to global public health.

"And there are many unknowns in terms of how we are going to be able to deal with it - bacteria are developing resistance faster than we can develop new drugs to combat them. And the concern is that we might go back to the very bad old days when we had a number of people dying from bacterial infections that are currently easily treatable."

He says it will require a major re-think - not just in how doctors prescribe antibiotics - but also how water treatment plants work.

"If the water industry is discharging antibiotics via treated sewage effluent via a riverine environment then we need to look very closely at our sewage treatment plants and how effective these sewage treatment plants are and potentially we need to work harder to try and remove trace concentrations and some of these chemicals which can cause serious environmental implications."

Dr John Wilkinson says it's already having an impact on patient care.

"There are antibiotics now that we don't generally use so much because we are seeing the level of resistance to the type of pathogens that we use. The concern at least is that we may run out of really useable anti-microbial medications."

A worrying brave new world when it comes to the future of health care....

Report by Gareth Boreham and Dubravka Voloder

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