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Protection goals must guide risk assessment for antibiotics

Journal article
Authors Johan Bengtsson-Palme
D. G. Joakim Larsson
Published in Environment international
Volume 111
Pages 352-353
ISSN 1873-6750
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Infectious Medicine
Centre for antibiotic resistance research, CARe
Pages 352-353
Language en
Subject categories Microbiology, Environmental Sciences, Microbiology


In a recent paper published in Environment International, Le Page et al. (2017) stress that discharge limits for antibiotics need to consider their potency to affect both environmental and human health, a very sound standpoint also from our point of view. It is reasoned that predicted no-effect concentrations for resistance selection (PNECs) derived from the minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of the most sensitive studied human-associated bacteria (Bengtsson-Palme and Larsson, 2016a), may not be sufficiently protective as environmental cyanobacteria in many cases appear to be more sensitive, according to the authors. The antibiotic resistance health crisis, and the growing understanding of the contribution of the environment in this development, indicates an urgent need for discharge limits for antibiotics, particularly for industrial sources (Bengtsson-Palme and Larsson, 2016b). Such limits would have tremendous value in regulation efforts (Government of India, 2017), for initiatives from the industry themselves (IFPMA, 2016), and for development of environmental criteria within public procurement and generic exchange programs (Bengtsson-Palme et al., 2018; Laurell et al., 2014; SPHS Secreteriat, UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub, 2015). However, somewhat in contrast to what the authors conclude, we do not think there is evidence that cyanobacteria would often be more sensitive to antibiotics than the most sensitive human-associated bacteria. Importantly, we also think that it is a bit unclear from the paper which protection goals are considered (protecting microbial diversity in ecosystems, protecting ecosystem functions and services, or protecting from risks for resistance selection) and particularly in what ways ecotoxicological test data could inform each of these targets.

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