KENAI PENINSULA, ALASKA — A team of scientists studying seagull feces at landfills in Anchorage have found a strain of E. coli bacteria that has proven to be resistant to antibiotics.
In a study published in the journal Infection Ecology and Epidemiology last November, at researchers the U.S. Geological Survey explain in detail how the resilient strain of E. coli bacteria has strengthened to the point where human-developed medicines have no answer for it.
When antibiotics are ingested, they pass through our bodies and get flushed down the toilet, into the sewage system. However, water treatment plants aren’t designed to treat antibiotic residues, allowing them to make their way into the environment. Bacteria in the environment then meet the antibiotic residues, and over time, they become resistant to them. Animals who hang out in places of high-human activity, like seagulls, then contract the E. coli.
The researchers aren’t sure the E. coli found in the seagull fecal matter can be transmitted to humans, but they are certain that humans are the cause of these infections in the birds. In the United States, the CDC reports 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are caused each year by drug-resistant bacteria.