Antibiotic Resistance Spills Over to Wildlife
Posted by Richard Conniff on May 1, 2013
For the next few months, many posts from Strange Behaviors will also be appearing at TakePart, the web site for Participant Pictures (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Lincoln,” and many more). I’ll start those posts here and then give you a link to jump to the body of the story at Take Part. Here’s the first such item:
Banded mongooses don’t get the love like their celebrated cousins the meerkats. Their eyes aren’t quite as soulful, and they don’t spend as much time standing around on their hind legs looking human. Even so, these small, highly social creatures are a favorite with visitors to sub-Saharan Africa, nosing around the camp in small groups, searching for beetles, millipedes, and other choice foods. But now, improbably, banded mongooses have turned up in the middle of a global health crisis.
It is, on the surface, a familiar story about the greatest miracle drugs in modern medicine: Massive overuse of antibiotics has rapidly caused bacteria to develop resistance, meaning that many human illnesses, from a common urinary tract infection to tuberculosis, are becoming difficult or impossible to treat. Antibiotic resistance is so widespread that, according to new research, it occurs even in wildlife living in a national park in southern Africa.
The new study, published last week in the scientific journal EcoHealth, raises questions about overuse of antibiotics, the hidden costs of ecotourism, and the need for more careful management of protected wildlife areas. Diseases spilling over from animals to humans have “the potential to spark a global pandemic,” according to the authors, and the new data add the alarming prospect that some emerging pathogen—the next SARS or swine flu—may be resistant to antibiotic treatment from Day One.
To read the rest of the article, click here.