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Diarrhea-causing and multi-resistant bacteria in the Choqueyapu River in Bolivia

Poor drinking water quality is a major cause of diarrhea, especially in the absence of well-working sewage treatment systems.

In this collaborative study, including researchers from Bolivia, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and CARe, the numbers of bacteria causing diarrhea were investigated in water, soil and vegetable samples from the Choqueyapu River area in La Paz – Bolivia’s third largest city. The river receives sewage and wastewater from industries and hospitals while flowing through La Paz. The study found that levels of ETEC – a bacterium that causes severe diarrhea – were much higher in the city than upstream of it, including at a site where the river water is used for irrigation of crops.

In addition, several multi-resistant bacteria could be isolated from the samples, of which many were emerging, globally spreading, multi-resistant variants. The results of the study indicate that there is a real risk for spreading of diarrheal diseases by using the contaminated water for drinking and irrigation. Furthermore, the identification of multi-resistant bacteria that can cause human diseases show that water contamination is an important route through which antibiotic resistance can be transferred from the environment back to humans.

The study was published in PLoS ONE on January 14, 2019, and can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210735