Strange findings: Bacteria recreating medications … in sewer systems

Apparently when some broken-down medications hit the wastewater system — you know, via toilets — the bacteria used to break down human waste can put the elements of some pharmaceuticals back together.

A new study led by a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found:

When researchers tested wastewater before and after treatment at a Milwaukee-area treatment plant, they found that two drugs — the anti-epileptic carbamazepine and antibiotic ofloxacin — came out at higher concentrations than they went in. The study suggests the microbes that clean our water may also piece some pharmaceuticals back together. …

“Microbes seem to be making pharmaceuticals out of what used to be pharmaceuticals,” said lead author Benjamin Blair, who spearheaded the work as a PhD. student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Blair is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Denver.
Those quotes are from the story “Bacteria making meds in wastewater outflows” on the Environmental Health News website.

Pretty wild when you think about it. We do what we can to break these things down … and some little helpers just put them right back together.

Apparently, it’s not a huge issue since the amount being reconstructed isn’t enough to harm humans … but that’s like telling people a little extra radiation isn’t a big deal. It isn’t, but it just doesn’t sound good when you say it.

What remains unclear is why only certain drugs would increase post-treatment. Blair and colleagues saw the trend in just two of the 48 pharmaceuticals found in their wastewater samples. …

Even with the increases, the pharmaceuticals are at levels far below what could impact humans if they consume the water, she said. But the ubiquity of the drugs in wastewater is a concern for fish and other aquatic creatures.

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Dru Tyler has been a contributing writer for the Pluto Daily since March of 2013. He is also the owner and founder of the rap news site,