STUDY: ‘Bacterial Monsters’ Spawning Inside Sharks


NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Our leftover medicines are spawning drug-resistant “bacterial monsters” that thrive inside sharks, scientists say.The finding suggests antibiotics such as penicillin may be leaching into the environment and spurring drug-resistant bacteria to evolve and multiply in the oceans. “Bacteria have sex, basically. They can transfer genetic material,” said study leader Mark Mitchell, professor of veterinary clinical medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mitchell and colleagues found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in seven species of shark—such as bull sharks, lemon sharks, and nurse sharks—as well as the redfish Sciaenops ocellata. The fish live in coastal waters off Belize, Florida, Louisiana, and Massachusetts. Though random mutations can account for the drug-resistant bacteria, there’s ample evidence for human origin, he noted. “What do people do with antibiotics when they don’t finish them? They flush them down the toilet [or] put them in the garbage,” Mitchell said. MORE

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