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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2004 Aug;54(2):311-20. Epub 2004 Jun 23.

Resistance in the environment.

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  • 1Applied Environmental Research Section, Institute of Environmental Medicine and Hospital Epidemiology, Freiburg University Hospital, Hugstetter Strasse 55, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany.


Antibiotics, disinfectants and bacteria resistant to them have been detected in environmental compartments such as waste water, surface water, ground water, sediments and soils. Antibiotics are released into the environment after their use in medicine, veterinary medicine and their employment as growth promoters in animal husbandry, fish farming and other fields. There is increasing concern about the growing resistance of pathogenic bacteria in the environment, and their ecotoxic effects. Increasingly, antibiotic resistance is seen as an ecological problem. This includes both the ecology of resistance genes and that of the resistant bacteria themselves. Little is known about the effects of subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics and disinfectants on environmental bacteria, especially with respect to resistance. According to the present state of our knowledge, the impact on the frequency of resistance transfer by antibacterials present in the environment is questionable. The input of resistant bacteria into the environment seems to be an important source of resistance in the environment. The possible impact of resistant bacteria on the environment is not yet known. Further research into these issues is warranted.

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