Antibiotic Resistance Linked to Microplastics

By Medscape Staff

December 08, 2021

A new study suggests that particles in the microplastics we encounter everywhere can allow bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics over time.

What to know:

  • Microplastics may provide a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance, according to a new study in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

  • This is because as particles in the plastic age, they can create a habitat for bacteria, chemicals, and genetic materials that allow for horizontal gene transfer and the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs).

  • Researchers from Rice University in Houston found that microplastics between 100 nanometers and five micrometers in diameter provide an ideal surface area to trap microbes. As the plastics break down, they release chemicals that weaken the membranes of bacteria, allowing ARGs to enter and creating antibiotic-resistant microbes.

  • Over 2.8 million people in the US are infected with antibiotic-resistant germs each year, according to the CDC.

  • This study points to the possibility of widespread increasing antibiotic resistance attributable not to the misuse of antibiotics, but to the microplastics we encounter everyday in containers, tea bags, clothing, and more.

This is a summary of the article "Microplastics May Increase Antibiotic Resistance, Study Finds" published by EcoWatch on December 6. The full article can be found on

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