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MRSA identified in U.S. wastewater treatment plants

November 7, 2012

BALTIMORE — A team led by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health has found that the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is prevalent at several U.S. wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), according to a press release.

wastewaterBecause infected people can shed MRSA from their noses and skin and through their feces, wastewater treatment plants are a likely reservoir for the bacteria, the release stated.

According to the release, the research team, including University of Maryland School of Public Health and University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers, collected wastewater samples throughout the treatment process at two Mid-Atlantic and two Midwestern WWTPs.

They found that MRSA, as well as a related pathogen, methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA),were present at all four WWTPs, with MRSA in half of all samples and MSSA in 55 percent, the release noted.

“Our findings raise potential public health concerns for wastewater treatment plant workers and individuals exposed to reclaimed wastewater,” said Rachel Rosenberg Goldstein, environmental health doctoral student in the School of Public Health and the study’s first author.

“Because of increasing use of reclaimed wastewater, further research is needed to evaluate the risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in treated wastewater,” Rosenberg Goldstein added.

Click here to read the release in its entirety.