Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Live in the Hudson River

A piece of news that might keep you out of the water: researchers recently found antibiotic resistant bacteria


Most people probably don’t expect the waterways of New York City to be particularly clean. The Hudson has long been a dumping ground for garbage, cars and even bodies. But recent efforts to clean up the Hudson have begun, and people do in fact swim in it. But researchers recently identified new river inhabitants might keep you out of the water—antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The study, published in the Journal of Water and Health, suggests that the bacteria might be coming from sewage leaking into the river. In other places, this antibiotic resistance can come from people dumping their old, unused antibiotics into the toilet or waterways, says Maryn McKenna at Wired. OnEarth explains why finding these antibiotic resistant bugs is bad news :

Humans often get infections after going swimming, however, and they are rarely serious enough to require antibiotics. But there could be health concerns down the line. As noted by the researchers from Columbia University, rivers can serve as incubators for bacteria. Kind of like the way some rookie criminals learn new tricks in prison, superbugs in rivers can easily pass their drug-resistant genes on to normal bacteria. The microbes found in the Hudson are resistant to ampicillin and tetracycline, anitibiotics commonly used for ailments from ear infections to pneumonia.

In New York, there are millions of eyes on the Hudson. And there are lots of groups trying to clean it up like Riverkeeper and Clearwater. But with so many people living around the Hudson, it can be nearly impossible to keep track of who’s putting what into it. One Clearwater trip uncovered a mysterious smell and traced it all the way back to its source:

Aside from antibiotic resistant bacteria, the Hudson is also full of PCBs, DDT and garbage. Rain washes sewage into the river all the time, even without people illegally dumping. So while people are trying to clean up the water, it might not yet be time to take a dip.

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