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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria thriving in Galway’s sewers

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Scientists at NUIG have discovered high levels of bacteria resistant to all antibiotics in urban sewage – but they insist that risk can be reduced greatly by an effective wastewater treatment.

Researchers at the School of Medicine – together with colleagues in UCD – carried out the study on whether antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria are present in hospital sewage and city sewage generally.

The research, published by the EPA, sought to address how antibiotics seep into the environment and to examine possible effects on human health.

The NUIG scientists claimed that antibiotic resistance was one of the greatest threats to public health. They revealed a worldwide epidemic whereby bacterium was becoming resistant to antibiotics and as a result infections becoming increasingly difficult to treat.

High levels of resistant bacteria existed in hospital sewage where – on average – one in three patients are on antibiotics. Bacteria in hospital sewage also proved resistance to a number of “newer” antibiotics.

But the study also showed resistant bacteria was reduced greatly by effective wastewater treatment. However they maintain that it did not eliminate them completely some antibiotic resistant bacteria survive and are discharged to seawater.

“This study highlights a part of the problem of antibiotic resistance that does not receive very much attention,” explained Dr. Dearbháile Morris, a bacteriologist from the School of Medicine at NUI Galway.

“Our work shows that there is a risk related to antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria in sewage but that a high standard of sewage treatment goes a long way to reduce that risk.

“This is one more reason why the discharge of untreated or inadequately treated sewage to the environment in Ireland or indeed anywhere in Europe or the wider world is an unacceptable risk to our health,” she added.

Resistant bacteria have emerged in humans due to overconsumption and improper use of antibiotic medicines. Bodies do not distil all of the antibiotics we ingest and as a result many active agents find their way into the natural environment.

Once exposed to the environment, expelled antibiotics mingle with bacteria in the water and cause existing microorganisms to develop resistant genes thus increasing the number of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Urban waste water and sewage treatment is vitally important in combating the global phenomenon of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance. Untreated sewage has a long term ecological impact on the environment.

The latest EPA report on Urban Waste Water Treatment reveals that untreated sewage was discharged from 45 areas, 27 of which were located in counties Cork, Donegal and Galway.

The report also shows just 24% of waste water discharged into sensitive areas from large towns and cities complied with mandatory European Union nutrient quality standards.

But Dr Morris acknowledged that the old hypothesis which suggests an occasional pinch of dirt can actually benefit the immune system by keeping it tuned and strong, could well hold some weight.

She admitted that “we have possibly become over concerned with hygiene” – to the detriment of our own health.

“Antibiotics are fantastic drugs” she insisted, adding “we have to protect them”.  When antibiotics first came to use, they were made using naturally occurring ingredients like medicinal fungi – penicillin.

Since then, antibiotic resistance has forced pharmaceutical providers to create a new selection of drugs to fight infection.

Synthetic antibiotics like fluoroquinolones have increased in popularity as they do not biologically occur in nature, making them more robust. However, lately scientists are discovering increased resistance against synthetic drugs.

Reports last November emerged of the so called ‘Apocalypse Pig’, a swine which showed resistance to a 50-year-old and unexposed antibiotic, known as the ‘last-resort antibiotic’ – colistin.

The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Control) together with the WHO (World Health Organisation) have since called for global awareness on the issue.

Dr. Morris, echoing the sentiments of global health authorities, calls for more considered use of antibiotics in tackling the antimicrobial resistance epidemic.

Considered use means only taking antibiotics when they are genuinely needed as antibiotic use is a key driver for antimicrobial resistance. The modern lax approach to pharmaceuticals is one that ought to be curtailed according to Dr. Morris.

‘Dr. Google’ is also mentioned as responsible for spawning a nation of self-diagnosing hypochondriacs – pro ne to self-medication and exaggeration in order to obtain prescription.

Dr. Morris also warned against the unnecessary and futile use of antibiotics for treatment of viral infections.

The common cold and flu are two such examples – both strains of the influenza virus. It is said taking antibiotics for treatment of a virus may do the body – and the environment – more harm than good.

Connacht Tribune

Exploring the merits of moving into the west

Dave O'Connell

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Mary Kennedy with Carol Ho, one of the Galway interviewees for her new TG4 series, Moving West. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.

“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.

These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.

But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.

Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.

One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.

The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing

Dave O'Connell

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Well saved...members of St Brendan's GAA Club honour their departed stalwart, John Geraghty, after a record-breaking evening saving his turf.

A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.

They lifted and footed his turf.

John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.

He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.

“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.

Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!

“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.

Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.

They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.

Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat

Denise McNamara

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Daddy’s girl…Sadhbh Browne with her very special message on organ donations. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.

After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.

“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”

But it could have all been so different.

Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.

Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.

Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.

Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

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