Antibiotic-resistant germs in streams, rivers and lakes
Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe said last year: “It cannot leave anyone indifferent that more and more people worldwide are dying from germs that are resistant to antibiotics. We have to fight antibiotic resistance with determination - nationally and internationally. ”Research by NDR journalists also makes it clear that something needs to be done in this country. The reporters found that there are antibiotic-resistant germs in some German waters.
Dangerous increase in antibiotic resistance
The increase in resistance to antibiotics presents the healthcare system with an ever increasing challenge. It was only last year that an EU Commission warned of massively increasing antibiotic resistance. If the problem is not brought under control soon, researchers face a horror scenario. According to an older study by the Berlin Charité, there could be around ten million deaths from multi-resistant germs by 2050. In recent years, more and more governments and experts have announced that they want to step up the fight against antibiotic resistance. Research by journalists from the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) shows that a lot has to happen in Germany as well. They found that there are antibiotic-resistant germs in various German waters.
Man died after infection with deadly germ
In March 2017, a man plunged into a stream in Frankfurt, became infected with a deadly germ and died only a short time later in the Frankfurt University Hospital.
This incident prompted a nationwide investigation, in which various multi-resistant germs were found in Frankfurt's waters.
"Pathogens with resistance to the reserve antibiotics carbapenems or colistin were found in five samples," explained the deputy head of the health department, Prof. Ursel Heudorf at the time.
"In addition, another method also found nucleic acids in eight water samples that can form a specific enzyme that breaks down the antibiotic carbapenems, a carbapenemase of type OXA-58," said the expert.
The finds in Frankfurt were the reason for months of research by journalists from the NDR program Panorama.
The reporters wanted to know whether such germs could possibly also be found in waters in Lower Saxony.
Alarming finds in water
As the NDR reports on its website, the journalists took samples at a total of twelve locations: from streams, rivers and at two bathing lakes.
Scientists from the Technical University of Dresden and the University Hospital in Gießen subsequently examined them for multi-resistant pathogens - and found them everywhere.
"This is really alarming," said antibiotic expert Dr. Tim Eckmanns from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) opposite the NDR.
"The pathogens seem to have arrived in the environment and to an extent that surprises me."
According to the NDR, the germs found are multi-resistant gram-negative bacteria (MRGN).
These pathogens can lead to serious diseases that are difficult to treat.
So far there are no systematic controls
The aquatic researcher Thomas Berendonk from the Technical University of Dresden also told the NDR that he was concerned about the findings.
The samples examined all come from Lower Saxony, a state that stands out due to intensive animal fattening. It is also problematic there that the water flows more slowly in the flat regions, which means that substances are more likely to deposit.
Although it has long been known that there are antibiotic-resistant pathogens in the environment, there have been no systematic controls so far. The germs could possibly get into the environment via the wastewater from clinics.
According to Martin Exner from the HyReKa research association, who is researching the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria through wastewater, one should not be afraid of bathing due to the results. However, you should pay close attention to personal hygiene.
"So shower off with clean water when you were outside for a swim. Of course you should always do that, ”said Exner, who was not involved in the investigation, according to a report by the dpa news agency.
However, the germs could be dangerous for people in the hospital, the elderly with chronic wounds and small children.
In view of the results, the Federal Environment Agency urges at least all major sewage treatment plants to be retrofitted.
According to the NDR, the costs would be around 1.3 billion euros annually. These are "means that should definitely be considered, also for the protection of the individual", said the President of the Federal Environment Agency Maria Krautzberger in an interview for the program Panorama. (ad)