Stemming the Tide of Antibiotic Resistance: Researchers Shed Light on the Complexities of Hospital Wastewater Treatment

Stemming the Tide of Antibiotic Resistance: Researchers Shed Light on the Complexities of Hospital Wastewater Treatment

Researchers at the Technical University of Crete have conducted a study to investigate the characteristics of wastewater samples from a large hospital in Crete and the effectiveness of treating the water using photocatalytic treatment. Hospital wastewater is highly toxic and contains various contaminants, including pathogenic microorganisms, hormones, and pharmaceutically active compounds. One of the major concerns with hospital wastewater is the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). ARGs can transfer between bacteria and drive the evolution of antibiotic resistance, posing a major threat to public health.

The researchers found high toxicity and significant levels of ARBs and ARGs in the hospital wastewater samples they analyzed, particularly from the Pathology and Oncology unit. However, the study reported a decrease of over 80% in pharmaceutically active compounds and bacteria when the wastewater was treated using photocatalysis, which utilizes UV-A light to break down contaminants. Despite the decrease in other contaminants, the concentration of ARGs remained high after treatment.

The study suggests that coupling photocatalysis with conventional wastewater treatment programs is a step in the right direction for hospital wastewater treatment. However, there are three requirements for photocatalysis to become a sustainable solution: the concentration of contaminants should be below a threshold, natural sunlight can be used for large-scale applications, and new photocatalytic materials that are inexpensive, sensitive to visible light, and stable need to be developed.

The researchers are continuing their research in developing pilot-scale units and applications for on-site treatment of hospital wastewater. A pilot-scale unit has already been installed in a hospital in Crete with promising results regarding the elimination of pathogens and ARGs from the wastewater. The researchers also emphasize the importance of raising public awareness and educating younger generations about the complexities of wastewater treatment.

Overall, this study sheds light on the complexities of hospital wastewater treatment and highlights the need for innovative solutions to address the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in healthcare settings.

Source: Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology (2023) – DOI: 10.1002/jctb.7329

– Society of Chemical Industry

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