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NCCOS Study on Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria Safeguards Environmental and Human Health

Antibiotics may enter marine ecosystems from wastewater systems, agricultural run-off (particularly from concentrated animal farming operations), as well as direct release from aquaculture waters.  NCCOS intern and University of South Carolina Masters of Public Health candidate, Keri Lydon presented findings from an NCCOS study focused on determining antibiotic resistance in the environment and overall risks to marine animal and human health at the South Carolina American Society of Microbiology meeting, April 20, 2013.  Keri placed third for the best graduate school presentation at the meeting.

Vibrio vulnificus is a water-borne pathogen responsible for 95% of food-borne illness deaths from seafood consumption. Vibrio parahaemolyticus is another water-borne human pathogen that causes gastrointestinal infections. A multiple antibiotic resistance assay was developed to test resistance of these species to ten antibiotics. Isolates from around the Southeastern United States were examined, including clinical (blood, wound) and environmental (oyster, water, sediment).

Results showed blood and water had the most diverse resistance profiles for sample matrixes tested. There were low amounts of resistance in Vibrio spp. in both clinical and environmental isolates, and no resistance to current antibiotics used to treat V. vulnificus infections. Further research is necessary on antibiotic resistance in Vibrio spp. to determine overall public health risk, however, current risks of becoming infected by a strain resistant to current therapies appears to be low.  For more information, contact

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