NZ study first in world to find common herbicides cause antibiotic resistance

PHOTO CREDIT: MIKE MOZART

New University of Canterbury research has confirmed the active ingredients in RoundUp, Kamba and 2,4-D (glyphosate, dicamba and 2,4-D, respectively) can cause bacteria to alter how susceptible they are to antibiotics.

University of Canterbury molecular biology and genetics Professor Jack Heinemann said the herbicides studied are three of the most commonly used in the world, including New Zealand.

“They are among the most common manufactured chemical products to which people, pets and livestock in both rural and urban environments are exposed,” Professor Heinemann said.

“These products are sold in the local hardware store and may be used without training, and there are no controls that prevent children and pets from being exposed in home gardens or parks.

“Despite their ubiquitous use, this University of Canterbury research is the first in the world to demonstrate that herbicides may be undermining the use of a fundamental medicine-antibiotics.”

The new paper led by University of Canterbury researchers also found ingredients that are regularly used in some herbicide formulations, and processed foods, also cause antibiotic resistance.

“More emphasis needs to be placed on antibiotic stewardship compared to new antibiotic discovery. Otherwise, new drugs will fail rapidly and be lost to humanity,” Professor Heinemann said.

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