A study done from University of York that analysed rivers from 72 countries found that 65% of them had significant traces of antibiotics. Multiple rivers across Asia and Africa had dangerous concentrations that exceeded safe levels and the drug Metronidazole was found exceeding safe levels by up to 300 times in Bangladesh. Most of the worst rivers were next to wastewater treatment plants and waste or sewage dumps in emerging economies but traces of antibiotics found across the Americas and Europe show this is a “global problem”.
A UN report estimates that by 2030 up to 10 million could die a year from drug resistant diseases. The United Nations recently deemed the increasing global resistance to antibiotic, antivirals and antifungals as a “global crisis” and we now know river contamination is potentially a large driver. Britain's Health Secretary stated that the rise of antimicrobial resistant superbugs is "as big a danger as climate change or warfare". Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been trying to tackle the problem through sanitation innovations ('reinventing the toilet') and has invested heavily in waterless alternatives.
Will governments be able to gather the significant investment in waste management and treatment needed while creating stricter regulations on antibiotic pollution? How will our polluted rivers cataylze the antibiotic resistance crisis?