Antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) first detected in urban India have been found 8000 miles away in the remote High Arctic, a new study published in the journal Environment International has shown.
An international (US, UK, and China) team of experts analysed extracted DNA from 40 soil cores at eight locations along the Kongsfjorden region of Svalbard in the High Arctic, detecting a total of 131 ARGs. The detected ARGs were associated with nine major antibiotic classes, including aminoglycosides, macrolides, and β-lactams.
The ARG blaNDM-1, originally detected in Indian clinical settings in 2008, was found in more than 60% of the study soil cores.
The research team, led by Newcastle University’s Prof David Graham, said the blaNDM-1 and other medically-important ARGs found in Arctic soils were likely spread in the faecal matter of migratory birds, other wildlife, and human visitors to the area.
“This finding has huge implications for global AR [antibiotic resistance] spread,” said Prof Graham. “A clinically important ARG originating from South Asia is clearly not ‘local’ to the Arctic."
“Polar regions are among the last presumed pristine ecosystems on Earth, providing a platform for characterising pre-antibiotic era background resistance against which we could understand rates of progression of AR ‘pollution’,” he added.