- Scientists at the EPA found an antibiotic-resistant superbug in a sewage treatment facility in Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reported.
- The superbug — carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE — was the same one implicated in outbreaks at UCLA Medical Center and two other nearby hospitals.
- The finding raises concerns that lethal bacteria aren’t being killed in treatment facilities and could be released into the environment.
Every day, hospitals flush millions of gallons of raw sewage into the nation’s sewers. Sewage plants are supposed to clean up the water and make it safe for drinking and other uses.
But instead, some studies suggest the treatment process creates a sort of incubator in which superbugs can proliferate and become more virulent. The risk is that these superbugs will then spread to people outside of hospitals.
The EPA didn’t test water leaving the sewage plant to see if CRE was still present. But according to the Times, 8% of people in one study who were infected with the superbug had not recently been treated in hospitals.
With California’s long Pacific coastline, authorities are concerned that swimmers and beachgoers could be infected with CRE. The superbug kills up to half of its victims.
UCLA’s outbreak occurred in 2014 and 2015, and was largely linked to endoscopic procedures.