Microplastic waste creates ‘hotspots’ of antibiotic resistant bacteria

Microplastic waste creates ‘hotspots’ of antibiotic resistant bacteria

Written by Timothy Huzar on March 30, 2021 — Fact checked by Catherine Carver, MPH
Share on PinterestNew research looks at how microplastics in wastewater plants contribute to antibacterial resistance. Abstract Aerial Art/Getty Images

  • Microplastics get washed down household drains and enter wastewater treatment plants.
  • Bacteria then attach to these microplastics, creating a sludge that attracts more bacteria.
  • A new study finds that this bacterial sludge contains genes that promote antibacterial resistance.

Scientists have demonstrated that the bacterial sludge that forms around microplastics in wastewater treatment plants contains genes that promote antibacterial resistance.

The research, which appears in the Journal of Hazardous Materials Letters, provides further evidence of the harmful effects that microplastics can have on human and environmental health.

Microplastics and environmental health

Plastics are one of the defining materials of the modern world. Plastics are so prevalent that researchers have suggested their widespread presence within global archaeological formations indicates a new global epoch: the Anthropocene.

There is currently much focus on whether or not microplastics — generally understood as smaller than 5 millimeters — pose a significant threat to human and environmental health.

Some researchers have suggested there is not yet enough evidence to know what health effects microplastics may have. However, they also recognize that their potential for damaging health is significant enough that further research is urgently needed.

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