Students search CO water for resistant bacteria

Posted at 6:07 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-15 20:41:11-05

Students and teachers at the University of Colorado Boulder are testing area water sources to find bacteria with antibiotic resistance.

Students in Evolution are tasked with collecting a small water sample from area water sources. Those samples are then tested for bacteria, to determine what antibiotic resistant strains are present. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria survives a chemical that typically kills that species.

"The trait of being resistant happens because of a random mutation," said PhD. student Sierra Love Stowell. "Somewhere in their genome they have a mutation that would allow them to survive in this chemical that would otherwise kill them off."

Bacteria can mutate quickly, sometimes in response to chemicals entering the water stream. According to a statement on the study's website, there are 700 products marketed for homes with antibiotic properties. Bacteria can become resistant to one, or multiple of those chemicals, up to 15 antibiotics. Some bacteria have even adapted to eat antibiotics to survive.

"You can get tons and tons of individuals," Stowell said. "If you have all those individuals, you have a really good chance of that mutation popping up somewhere."

The data is still being collected and the research hasn't been published yet. However, researchers think humans do have an effect on the bacteria. So far, students from multiple semesters have been collecting data for up to six years.


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