A recent study disclosed that the antibiotic-resistant E. Coli was more prevalent in villages situated along roads than in rural villages located away from these thoroughfares.

This finding suggests that roads play a major role in the spread or containment of antibiotic resistant bacteria, commonly called superbugs.

Many studies on various infectious diseases revealed that roads hasten the spread of disease.

However, this is the first study which indicate roads as causing the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.” – Joe Eisenberg Michigan School of Public Health professor

Academic researchers have studied a region in northwest Ecuador for five years, focusing on antibiotic resistant E. coli and the combinationof ampicillin and sulfamethoxazole.

Our results show it’s not just the individual’s antibiotic use that affects antibiotic resistance,” Eisenberg said.

Other important factors that affect the spread of antibiotic resistance are the rates by which people introduce new strains due to movement in and out of the region, as well as poor water quality and sanitation that allow the transmission of antibiotic resistant strains.”

Both of these factors are influenced by the presence of the roads.

“We focus so much on the individual, and if they do or don’t take antibiotics, but we’re learning more and more that there’s a broader environmental and social context in which antibiotic resistance happens,” Eisenberg said.

While increased antibiotic use over long periods of time can increase antibiotic resistance with bacteria such as E. Coli, these have a different effect on bacteria when antibiotics are taken for shorter periods.

This superbug E. Coli becomes the dominant strain, thus increasing the likelihood that it is transmitted from one person to another. A transmission event can occur when an infected person contaminates food they are preparing or a water source they are bathing in and an uninfected person subsequently is exposed to the contaminated food or water source.

Thus, the road influences health not only through providing more access to antibiotics, but also by creating different levels of water sanitation and hygiene.

The paper, “In-roads to the spread of antibiotic resistance: regional patterns of microbial transmission in northern coastal Ecuador,” comes out this month in the Journal of the Royal Society, Interface.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health has been promoting health and preventing disease since 1941, and is ranked among the top public health schools in the nation.