Drugs Medical Pharma

Antibiotic resistance linked to higher arsenic content in drinking water

Arsenic E. coli drug resitance

HQ Team

December 9, 2022: A rise in arsenic levels in drinking water may result in higher antibiotic resistance of diarrhea-causing Escherichia coli bacteria in children, a study found.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the leading causes of death and hospitalization globally. While significant drivers are the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, natural elements such as heavy metals can also promote antibiotic resistance, the study investigating rural areas in Bangladesh stated.

Escherichia coli (E.coli) are a diverse group of bacteria in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless, while others can make you sick.

Variety of E. Coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other diseases.

Researchers collected water and stool samples from mothers and children of 100 families in two rural sub-districts in Bangladesh.

Families in the Hajiganj subdistrict use drinking water from shallow tube wells with a high concentration of arsenic. In contrast, Matlab families collect their drinking water from arsenic-free deep tube wells.


Overall, 84% of all water and stool samples across both sites were found to be positive for the bacteria.

The prevalence of antibiotic-resistant escherichia coli were significantly higher in water in Hajiganj compared to water in Matlab and among children in Hajiganj (94%) compared to children in Matlab, but not among mothers.

A higher proportion of E. coli from Hajiganj were resistant to multiple antibiotics, including penicillin, cephalosporin, and chloramphenicol.

“The positive association detected between arsenic exposure and antibiotic resistance carriage among children in arsenic-affected areas in Bangladesh is an important public health concern that warrants redoubling efforts to reduce arsenic exposure,” said Mohammad Aminul Islam of Washington State University, the lead author.

“Heavy metals such as arsenic are more stable than antibiotics in the environment, and they continue to exert selective pressure on bacteria over a more extended period driving the evolution and expansion of antimicrobial resistance in the community,” he said.

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