Ghana is said to have rivers contaminated with dangerous levels of antibiotics, according to a new study by researchers from the University of York in the UK
The study, the first ever of its kind, found that concentrations of antibiotics in some waterways exceeded the safe levels by 300 times.
The researchers also tested rivers in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria and Pastikan, which were also found to have the most contaminated rivers.
“The study revealed that high-risk sites were typically adjacent to wastewater treatment systems, waste or sewage dumps and in some areas of political turmoil, including the Israeli and Palestinian border,” a release from the University said.
“Sites where antibiotics exceeded ‘safe’ levels by the greatest degree were in Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria, while a site in Austria was ranked the highest of the European sites monitored.”
The researchers looked at 14 commonly used antibiotics in rivers flowing through 72 countries.
According to the study, safe limits were most frequently exceeded in Asia and Africa.
But it also notes that sites in Europe, North America and South America also had high levels of contamination, reminding that antibiotic contamination was a “global problem”.
Professor Alistair Boxall, Theme Leader of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute, is quoted as describing the results as “quite eye-opening and worrying, demonstrating the widespread contamination of river systems around the world with antibiotic compounds.”
“Solving the problem is going to be a mammoth challenge and will need investment in infrastructure for waste and wastewater treatment, tighter regulation and the cleaning up of already contaminated sites,” he added.
The fear of scientists is that antibiotics in rivers will cause bacteria to develop resistance meaning they can no longer be used in medicines for humans.
The UN estimates that the rise in antibiotic resistance could kill about 10 million people by 2050.
In Ghana, the alarm has also been raised about the rate of abuse of antibiotics by some sectors of society.
The abuse of antibiotics increases the spread of a phenomenon called antibiotic resistance, which the UN warns could surpass annual cancer fatalities, describing it as a “global health emergency.”