Hartford (CBS CONNECTICUT) — High levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found in the Hudson River, much of which is likely from untreated raw sewage being pumped into the water.
A Columbia University study published in the current issue of the Journal of Water and Health found that disease-causing microbes – which are resistant to ampicillin, tetracycline and other drugs commonly prescribed to treat ear infections, salmonella and other ailments – are quite common in the areas near New York City, Newtown Creek and Flushing Bay.
“We have a strong case . . . it’s coming from untreated sewage,” said Andrew Juhl, a Columbia University microbiologist who co-authored the study, which was published Thursday in The Journal of Water and Health.
On numerous visits to 10 locations on the Hudson, the researchers found microbes resistant to ampicillin 84 percent of the time and resistant to tetracycline 38 percent of the time. And those with weaker immune systems are placed at a very high risk of infection.
“They could be difficult to treat in people with compromised immune systems,” said Dr. Stephen Morse, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.
“If I were inclined to swim in the Hudson, quite truthfully I’d look to this paper for the places to stay away from.”
And this is not the first case in which antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found in a river.
A 2002 study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found ampicillin-resistant bacteria in the Hudson, as well as 15 other U.S. rivers, including the Mississippi, Ohio and Colorado, reports Redorbit.com. However, this is the first study to firmly link specific microbes to sewage in the Hudson.
“Microbial communities can affect the health of the entire ecosystem,” University of South Florida study coauthor Suzanne Young old NY Daily News. Since the Clean Water Act, [the Hudson] has gotten exponentially better.