Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Found in Hudson River; Untreated Sewage To Blame

Researchers have found antibiotic resistant bacteria in the Hudson River, and it’s likely due to sewage water that is untreated before it is dumped into the river.  While many people probably wouldn’t consider taking a swim in this river, some people do, and it’s likely to give those that are brave enough to consider getting in a pretty nasty infection.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria found in Hudson River.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria found in Hudson River.

The Tappan Zee Bridge all the way to lower Manhattan seems to be the worst stretch for this bacteria, too.  Researchers found microbes that were positive for some of the commonly prescribed antibiotics including tetracycline and ampicillin.  Scientists went to certain parts of the river about ten times, and discovered that there were bacteria that are resistant to ampicillin present about 85 percent of the times they visited; and bacteria that is resistant to tetracycline present about 38 percent of the times they visited.

According to Andrew Juhl, microbiologist with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, antibiotic resistant bacteria in ecosystems can be difficult to trace.  In the case of the bacteria found in the Hudson, he says, they have pretty solid reason to believe that it comes from untreated sewage.  Juhl is also the co-author of the bacteria study.

Researchers discovered most of the bacteria in areas where untreated sewage was dumped into the river.  Strains of bacteria present in these areas included potential pathogens, such as those belonging to the Acinetobacter, Escherichia, Proteus and Pseudomonas genera.

While many wind up with infections after swimming in the Hudson, as well as other waterways, only a few wind up needing antibiotics to treat their infections.  Often, severe infections linked to taking a swim in any murky waters are not reported, except when the cases are quite serious, such as the one that caused 30 athletes in Malaysia to get an infection after taking part in an event.

Research as found that many of the US rivers, including the Hudson, contain strains of bacteria that are resistant to bacteria, especially caused from releasing sewage water into the river.  An estimated 27 billion gallons of sewage are dumped into the Hudson yearly.  Heavy rains force many water treatment facilities to send their sewage and rain water into the river.  This practice is called combined sewer overflow.

Riverkeeper is an environmental group working with researchers at Lamont-Doherty, as well as Queens College of the City University of New York have been working to clean up the Hudson River over the past 30 years or so, but there are still some part of the river that still contain high amounts of the antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Not only can these bacteria be harmful to people that swim in the Hudson, but they can also have a negative impact on the marine life of the river.

Written by Tony Clark

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