Antibiotic of the week: Cefotaxime

Antibiotic pollution index: 236 (11 September 2017)
What is the Antibiotic Pollution Index?

What it does
The cell wall separates the bacterial cell from its surroundings, gives it strength and protection. With cefotaxime, cell walls break and bacteria die.

Who gets it
Cefotaxime is used to treat a wide range of infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis, abdominal infections and joint infections. It is a typical broad spectrum antibiotic: many bacteria dislike it. Veterinarians, however, do like it. Cefotaxime is used to treat pets and small farm animals worldwide, and cattle and pigs in a number of countries.

Where may it be produced?
India, China, Korea, USA, Italy, Germany.

And, SquaredAnt, does it pollute?
It may very well be. We found evidence for pollution in Spain and the United Kingdom, from hospital waste, waste water treatment effluents, and river water. All concentrations lie around 0.1 ng/ml. This means: if a course of cefotaxime would be be 2 gram per day, you would have to drink 20,000,000 liter if you’d like to recycle from river water directly. A daunting task, but hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

Warning lights
If antibiotics concentrations are too low to kill bacteria, bacteria may start to allow this antibiotic in their daily lives at higher concentrations. What doesn’t kill them, makes them stronger… we call this “Antibiotic Resistance”, but the term could be “Antibiotic Ignorance” too. Resistance gives the impression of combat, that bacteria struggle to survive, that some day, resistance may be broken. But in many cases, bacteria don’t fight. For resistant bacteria, the antibiotic has become one of the many chemicals they simply deal with. From their perspective, the antibiotic is not even an antibiotic any more. They changed the lock, got a new key, end of story.
Antibiotic resistance (or should I say “ignorance”) against cefotaxime is on the rise everywhere. Portuguese rivers, American fruits an Indian dairy, they all contain bacteria that are perfectly fine to be exposed to cefotaxime.

Any common sense in this antibiotic?
No. Cefotaxime is a very powerful antibiotic to treat serious human diseases. But for now, treating pets, poultry, pigs and other animals with cefotaxime, which leads to a noticeable release into the environment as well as a rise in antibiotic resistance, is incompatible with a common sense strategy that reserves this drug for patients in need.


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