Journal highlight - antibiotic resistance found in remote snow and ice - News & Features

15 July 2014
Journal highlight - antibiotic resistance found in remote snow and ice

Antibiotic resistant bacteria and/or antibiotic resistance genes have been found in the natural environment, geographically isolated from intensive use of antibiotics.

Scientists have tested 54 samples of snow and ice collected from the Arctic, Antarctiv, Central Asia, North and South Americas, and Africa, to evaluate the level of antibiotic resistance genes in environments where anthropogenic factors are not expected to influence resistance to drugs.

They observed a widespread distribution of antibiotic resistance genes in samples from various glaciers in Central Asia, North and South Americas, Greenland and Africa. In contrast, Antarctic glaciers were virtually free from these genes. Antibiotic resistance genes, of both clinical (i.e. aac(3), blaIMP) and agricultural (i.e. strA and tetW) origin, were detected.

This shows regional geographical distribution of antibiotic resistance genes, and the team suggests that the most plausible modes of transmission are through airborne bacteria and migrating birds.

The article is published in SfAM's Environmental Microbiology Reports journal, as follows: Segawa, T., Takeuchi, N., Rivera, A., Yamada, A., Yoshimura, Y., Barcaza, G., Shinbori, K., Motoyama, H., Kohshima, S. and Ushida, K. (2013), Distribution of antibiotic resistance genes in glacier environments. Environmental Microbiology Reports, 5: 127–134. doi: 10.1111/1758-2229.12011. Click here to read the full text (subscription required).

Image: "153 - Glacier Perito Moreno - Grotte glaciaire - Janvier 2010" by Martin St-Amant (S23678) - Own work (Martin St-Amant). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.