Article image

Experts have mapped levels of antimicrobial resistance worldwide

A new study led by the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark has produced the first dataset that can be used to compare the levels and types of antimicrobial resistant bacteria present in people across the globe. The researchers analyzed sewage that was collected in 74 cities across 60 different countries.

After mapping all the DNA material in the sewage samples, the team found that antimicrobial resistance fell into two distinct groups. The lowest levels of antimicrobial resistance were found in North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and the highest levels were found in Asia, Africa, and South America.

The use of antimicrobials only accounts for a small part of antimicrobial resistance, so the researchers looked for other contributing factors and for characteristics that could be indicative of resistance. They found that most of the associated factors are related to a population’s general state of health and the sanitary conditions in the country.

Image Credit: Frank Aarestrup

“In the fight against antimicrobial resistance, our findings suggest that it would be a very effective strategy if concerted efforts were made to improve sanitary conditions in countries with high levels of antimicrobial resistance,” said study lead author Professor Frank Aarestrup

Using data from the World Bank, the researchers have predicted the levels of antimicrobial resistance in 259 countries and have created a global map of resistance in healthy populations.

“Analyzing sewage can quickly and relatively cheaply show exactly which bacteria abound in an area – and collecting and analyzing sewage doesn’t require ethical approval, as the material cannot be traced back to individuals. Both parameters help to make a surveillance system via sewage a viable option – also in developing countries,” explained Professor Aarestrup.

The researchers hope to develop a system that makes it possible to exchange and interpret information in real time, which would make it possible to manage diseases that threaten to develop into pandemics.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day