Don’t drink the water. That's latest word from Columbia University researchers who found high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the Hudson River.
Environmental scientists have long known disease-causing microbes are in the Hudson, but the new study documents dangerous drug-resistant strains in specific spots, from the Tappan Zee Bridge to lower Manhattan.
According to the findings, published in the Journal of Water and Health, the nasty microbes are resistant to ampicillin and tetracycline, drugs commonly used to treat ear infections, pneumonia, salmonella, and other ailments.
"If you find antibiotic-resistant bacteria in an ecosystem, it's hard to know where they're coming from," said Andrew Juhl, a microbiologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "In the Hudson, we have a strong case to make that it's coming from untreated sewage."
The results are based on repeat visits the researchers made to 10 locations on the Hudson.
The stretches harboring the most bacteria included Flushing Bay, near LaGuardia Airport, Newtown Creek, on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, and areas near Piermont Pier in Rockland County, West 125th Street in Manhattan, and Yonkers, in Westchester County.
The antibiotic-resistant bacteria found include potentially pathogenic strains of E. coli, Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, and Proteus.
"They could be difficult to treat in people with compromised immune systems," said Stephen Morse, M.D., an infectious disease epidemiologist at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study. "If I were inclined to swim in the Hudson, quite truthfully I'd look to this paper for the places to stay away from."
This is not the first time that antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found in a river. A 2002 study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found resistant bacteria in the Hudson, as well as 15 other U.S. rivers, including the Mississippi, Ohio, and Colorado.
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