In Brazil, a study conducted by researchers affiliated with the University of São Paulo (USP) and collaborators showed that deforestation in the Amazon causes an increase in the diversity of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
An article on the study, published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry, compares the microorganisms that live in the soil of native forest with those found in pasture and croplands. The researchers found a far larger number of genes considered markers of antibiotic resistance in deforested than forested areas.
“Bacteria produce substances with which to attack each other in a competition for resources that’s usual in any environment. When an area is deforested, however, several factors intensify this competition, favoring the bacteria that can resist these substances. If they reach humans, these microorganisms can become a major problem,” said Lucas William Mendes, a researcher supported by FAPESP at USP’s Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture (CENA) in Piracicaba, in the state of São Paulo, and last author of the article.
The study was part of a project linked to the FAPESP Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (BIOTA-FAPESP) and led by Tsai Siu Mui, a professor at CENA-USP.
Antibiotic resistance is a global public health emergency, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which says drug-resistant diseases cause some 700,000 deaths per year worldwide.
In the study, the researchers at CENA-USP, collaborating with colleagues at the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ-USP) and scientists at the National Laboratory for Scientific Computing in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro State, analyzed some 800 million DNA sequences extracted from 48 soil samples collected in Pará State and northern Mato Grosso State, both of which are part of the Amazon biome.