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Expert meeting WHO: the role of water in the spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria

On 5 and 6 July the KWR Watercycle Research Institute has hosted a WHO expert meeting meeting for 35 international experts on water and antimicrobial resistant bacteria to write an action plan for the WHO to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance through water. The water sector has a central position in a lot of these processes, allowing them to contribute to the approach to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.

The KWR has organized this meeting in close unison with the WHO, among the attendees are professionals from KWR, STOWA, Waternet, RIVM and the University Medical Center Groningen.

Antimicrobial resistance through water cycle

The water cycle plays an important role in the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance. For example from dumping of resistant microorganisms and genes in the water environment, to a transfer of these microorganisms and genes in the environment by exposure via drinking water, swimming, irrigation of crops and aquaculture. By an increase in urbanization and animal husbandry the pressure increases on the water environment. In sewer water, surface water and sediment more resistant genes are discovered. This makes the water environment both a reservoir and melting pot of antibiotic resistance.

Water sector in central position to act

The WHO is focusing more on antibiotic resistance in water, more knowledge is required on pollution sources, routes of infection, prevention and behavior (transport, persistence and transfer) and the health risks of antibiotic resistance in the water. In the Netherlands, drinking water is purified and the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria spreading through the drinking water is very small compared to other routes such as the production of meat for consumption. However, the global water sector does have an important position to provide a clean water environment for all. And the water sector has the means to intervene in the water chain to stop the spreading of resistant genes for other sectors such as health care, animal husbandry and food.

Source: KWR news item