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Lakes, rivers near abandoned mine sites likely source of antibiotics

A 2009 algal bloom on the southeast shore of Pelee Island, Ontario. (Photo courtesy of: Tom Archer | NASA. )

Canadian scientists from Laurentian University have found that waterbodies impacted by decades of mining activity could be a potential new source of antibiotics.

The group, led by Dr. J.A. Scott, a bioengineering professor, examined lakes and rivers located within five kilometres of abandoned Northern Ontario mine sites. The goal was to determine whether those stressed environments could produce algae with antibiotic properties.

Study could help solve the issue of antibiotics-resistant bacteria and set a precedent for minerson how to deal with polluted water left behind.

The results, published in a recent issue of Phycologia, a journal that features research on algae, showed that, when tested against Staphylococcus aureus (a common, naturally occurring bacterium that can cause infections of the skin, lungs, brain or blood), 38% of the algae found near closed mines was effective against it. And their antibacterial property was stronger than what’s been uncovered in previous research.

The study could help solve the increasing issue of antibiotics-resistant bacteria and set a precedent for the mining industry on how to deal with polluted water left behind.

Scott and his team will continue to further prove their hypothesis over the next two years, thanks to additional funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence and Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations.

In this second phase, the team will analyze waterbodies near currently producing mines – with Glencore’s full participation – to see if he can replicate the same results.

Hat Tip: Northern Ontario Business.