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Ecotoxicity Risks during influenza pandemic

By Andrew C. Singer


The global public health community has closely monitored the\ud unfolding of the 2009-10 influenza pandemic to best mitigate its impact on society. However, little attention has been given to the impact that our response to a pandemic might have on the environment. Antiviral and antimicrobial drugs prescribed to treat influenza and influenza-associated complications are poorly metabolized in vivo; once ingested, they are subsequently excreted into\ud wastewater in a biologically-active form. Here we use a global spatially structured epidemic model to simulate the quantities of drugs used during an influenza pandemic under different conditions. We couple this model to a wastewater and river flow model, to project drug concentrations in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and receiving rivers in the Thames basin in Southern England. Ecotoxicologic modeling shows that projected concentrations of antibiotics in WWTPs and receiving rivers would not exceed toxicity thresholds in the case of a mild pandemic, as observed with the current H1N1 pandemic. However, at the peak of a moderate or severe pandemic, the mean antibiotic usage could increase by 13% and 252% as compared to interpandemic\ud periods, respectively. Nearly one-third of the microbial community in 70% of the WWTPs in the Thames basin are projected to be growth-inhibited during a severe pandemic, and preliminary empirical evidence signals the\ud potential disruption of bacterial biofilms upon exposure to WWTP-relevant concentrations of Tamiflu. Between 5 to 40% of the length of the Thames River receiving WWTP effluent is projected to exceed thresholds for microbial growth-inhibition from antibiotics. Projections indicate no ecotoxicologic risk for a situation consistent with the 2009-10 H1N1 influenza pandemic. However, a more severe pandemic might result in reduced WWTP efficacy, resulting in\ud the release of partly untreated sewage into receiving rivers, leading to eutrophication, fish kill, and contamination of drinking water abstraction points

Topics: Ecology and Environment
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:12265

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