Tamiflu passing through wastewater treatment plants could end up creating drug-resistant flu strains
October 1, 2009

As though municipalities didn't already have enough to worry about with the possibility of flu epidemics and how it could severely cut the available workforce to keep essential services operating, now there's a new problem: A study performed in Japan seems to indicate that virtually all Tamiflu taken by people ends up passing through wastewater plants and into rivers and streams while still fully active. That, in turn, could be causing wildlife to pick up just enough of a Tamiflu dose that it could, in turn, cause mutated forms of the virus to start to appear. That effect could be magnified even more if mutated strains of influenza, like H5N1, get exchanged between humans and birds. Given that the vast preponderance of treatment plants in places like Iowa and Nebraska are simply lagoons in which no particular treatment is added beyond the natural breakdown of wastewater in sunlight and fresh air, the steps that could be required to counteract the presence of leftover pharmaceuticals could be far more than most places can afford.

October 2009
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last revised October 2009