Herbicide-induced antibiotic response in bacteria

Herbicide-induced Antibiotic Response in Bacteria

Agrichemicals, intended for use in controlling weedy plants, can also induce a change in the antibiotic response of bacteria exposed to the chemicals. This finding, from research at the University of Canterbury, led by Professor Jack Heinemann and supported in part by the Brian Mason Trust, is internationally novel and significant. The level of significance is indicated by the philanthropic donations that have been generated to continue the research.

The ingredients of herbicides (Roundup, 2,4-D, Kamba, Tween80 and CMC) were tested. All were found to increase the resistance of disease-inducing bacteria to at least 3 of five common antibiotics tested (ampicillin, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, kanamycin and tetracycline). The effects can be up to a 1 million fold increase in the frequency of resistance. This is an unexpected and unintended consequence of herbicides, which may be increasing the worldwide problem of increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics and thus disease risk to humans and animals.