‘Bracing for Superbugs’ report highlights antibiotic resistance in the environment

Media Contacts

WASHINGTON — The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a new report Tuesday, “Bracing for Superbugs,” examining how antibiotic resistance spreads through our environment. The report stresses that the health of people, animals, plants and the environment are intertwined. So when people overuse antibiotics in any setting, and promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, those “superbugs” then can pollute our water, soil, and air and endanger people and animals. 

PIRG and several other groups recently sued the Environmental Protection Agency for approving the expanded use of a medically important antibiotic in citrus groves, which could exacerbate the antibiotic resistance crisis. 

Matt Wellington, PIRG’s Public Health Campaigns Director, issued the following statement:

“In ‘Bracing for Superbugs,’ UNEP spotlights the fact that drug-resistant bacteria don’t respect borders. Anytime and anywhere we overuse antibiotics, we risk superbugs flourishing and spreading through a variety of pathways, eventually making their way to us.

“Agriculture is a significant driver of antibiotic resistance in our environment. When meat producers overuse medically important antibiotics, drug-resistant bacteria have more opportunities to spread from farms through water and soil and infect people. Bacteria can also acquire resistance genes from each other and become even more dangerous.

“Governments around the world should commit to significantly reducing antibiotic use in agriculture to preserve these life-saving medicines for the future and limit the ability of superbugs to hitch a ride through the environment.”