Study: Deadly ‘superbug’ MRSA now being found at U.S. wastewater treatment plants
by: Ethan A. Huff
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Using reclaimed water to irrigate lawns, parks, gardens, and various other types of landscaping is common in many communities across the U.S., particularly in areas prone to water shortages and drought. But a new study headed by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health suggests that this practice may no longer be safe, as antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are now being detected in both influent and effluent water samples at wastewater treatment plants nationwide.
Study author Amy R. Sapkota, an assistant professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, and her colleagues, some of whom came from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, collected wastewater samples from two mid-Atlantic and two Midwestern wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) for their study, and analyzed them for the presence of superbugs like MRSA. The team drew samples of influent, which is the raw sewage directly fed into a treatment plant, as well as effluent, which is partially treated wastewater that is commonly recycled for irrigation purposes.
Shockingly, half of all the wastewater samples taken from each of the WWTPs tested positive for MRSA, while a similar pathogen known as methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) was detected in 55 percent of all the collected samples. As far as influent is concerned, the team detected MRSA in a staggering 83 percent of the samples taken from all plants, indicating a widespread problem of superbug contamination that is occurring in more places than just hospital rooms.