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Monday, January 18, 2010

Detection of antibiotics in hospital effluents in India

Industrial production of antibiotics and their large scale availability is an important phenomenon of the 20th century. Easy availability of antibiotics made previously fatal diseases treatable and thereby contributed to improved health and well-being globally. However, the large scale use also had a potential to contaminate the environment, as after consumption, a considerable amount of antibiotics is not metabolized by the human body and excreted. These antibiotics ultimately enter the aquatic environment either as active compounds or metabolites. The likely adverse effects of these contaminants on aquatic ecosystem as well as the underlying public health implications are a very disturbing thought. Further, the effect of such a contamination on the development of bacterial resistance is also a matter of grave concern. Hospital effluent is an important contributory source of antibiotics to the environment. While information is available on antibiotic residue levels in hospital effluent from high-income countries, information on antibiotic residue levels in effluent from Indian hospitals is not available. This information gap is now no more.
A team of scientists from the R.D. Gardi Medical college, Ujjain, India (Vishal Diwan and A. J. Tamhankar) and from Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden ( Cecilia Stalsby Lundborg) have quantified the antibiotic residues in the effluents from two hospitals in the Ujjain district of Madhya Pradesh (with help from SIIR, Delhi). They found that antibiotics of all major groups are entering the aquatic environment through hospital effluent. They detected metronidazole, norfloxacin, sulphamethoxazole, ceftriaxone, ofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin and tinidazole in the range of 1.4–236.6 microgram/litre . The high concentration of fluoroquinolones in their results is a cause of special concern, as these can cause genetic modification of bacterial strains. The situation can become problematic in India because of resource constraints to treat wastewater for removal of antibiotic contaminants. More studies are needed in this area to bring out both – the problems and the solutions. (CURRENT SCIENCE, 97, NO. 12, 1752-1755; 25 DECEMBER 2009)

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