Antimicrobial residues in water: A threat to health

Antibiotics are one of the great inventions, helping to save millions of lives every year from dangerous infections. However, overuse of antibiotics will lead to antibiotic resistance – extremely dangerous to human health.

Recently, scientists at Karolinska Institute (Sweden) discovered antibiotic residues in wastewater treatment plants in many places in Asia. The study was published in the medical journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

The study compiled data from nearly 250 reports from the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions (as divided by the World Health Organization), spanning from 2006 to 2019. In the region, there are China and India – 2 of the world’s leading antibiotic producers and consumers.


The results detected 92 types of antibiotics in water sources in the Western Pacific region and 45 types of antibiotics in Southeast Asia. Antibiotic concentrations exceeding the safe threshold have been recorded in wastewater, at wastewater treatment plants, and entering the water environment. Antibiotic residues come from many sources: Hospitals, residential areas, livestock areas, pharmaceutical factories.

When entering water sources, antibiotic residues pose a serious threat to health. Bacteria in this environment can develop dangerous drug resistance, leading to untreatable infections in both pets and humans.

In drinking water sources in China and the Western Pacific region, the research team detected high concentrations of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, exceeding the safety threshold. Antibiotic residues in wastewater as well as drinking water sources can contribute to the spread of this dangerous antibiotic resistance situation.

This result can help policymakers find more effective solutions to reduce antibiotic residues, especially in resource-poor countries that produce large amounts of antibiotics.

According to Tạp chí Sức khoẻ +

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