Another look at Antibiotic Resistance

A recent study regarding antibacterial resistance to 3 common pathogenic bacteria raises some serious questions about our use of technology, namely Wi-Fi.

I came across a research study titled “Evaluation of Wi-Fi Radiation Effects on Antibiotic Susceptibility, Metabolic Activity and Biofilm Formation by Escherichia Coli 0157H7, Staphylococcus Aureus and Staphylococcus Epidermis” Dated October 1,2019, in the journal of Biophysics and Engineering. This study was conducted with three different university faculty members in in the biological sciences: from Beirut Arab University in Lebanon, Lebanese University Lebanon, and Alexandria University in Egypt.

The purpose was to determine whether Wi-Fi emitting routers, at the frequency most used in the world, would alter three common disease-causing bacteria enough to make them resistant to antibiotics.
What they discovered has serious implications for our health and our use of technology.

To begin with, what were the three bacteria tested?

The first one tested, Escherichia Coli 015757H7, commonly known as e-coli, is the pathogen responsible for many outbreaks of diarrhea. E-coli usually resolves itself with non-bloody diarrhea, however, in 5-10 percent of cases it can become life threatening, requiring kidney dialysis. Young children, immunocompromised and elderly are at highest risk for severe complications. E coli is transmitted via feces, from contaminated food such as meat and vegetables, food preparation surfaces or human to human- daycare centers or food preparation workers not washing hands after using the restroom. Transmission has also been documented via airborne particles.

The next bacteria tested, Staphylococcus Aureus, is a type of bacteria that around 30 percent of the population carries in their nasal cavity. Most of the time, just like E Coli, this bacterium causes no serious health risks. However, the prevalence of resistance to antibiotics is growing. One of the most common resistant strains is MRSA- methicillin resistant staph aureus.

According to the CDC:

“Most of the time, staph does not cause any harm; however, sometimes staph causes infections. In healthcare settings, these staph infections can be serious or fatal, including:

• Bacteremia or sepsis when bacteria spread to the bloodstream.
• Pneumonia, which most often affects people with underlying lung disease including those on mechanical ventilators.
• Endocarditis (infection of the heart valves), which can lead to heart failure or stroke.
• Osteomyelitis (bone infection), which can be caused by staph bacteria traveling in the bloodstream or put there by direct contact such as following trauma (puncture wound of foot or intravenous (IV) drug abuse).”

The CDC goes on to state:

“Anyone can develop a staph infection, although certain groups of people are at greater risk, including people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, vascular disease, eczema, lung disease, and people who inject drugs. In healthcare facilities, the risk of more serious staph infection is higher because many patients have weakened immune systems or have undergone procedures.”

The final bacterium tested, Staphylococcus Epidermis (S. Epidermis), is a normal part of the skin flora. It used to be thought of as benign, however it is now regarded as one of the leading causes of nosocomial (hospital) infections. The biofilm (a protective slime like layer that protects the bacteria in its matrix) that forms from this bacterium is notorious for growing on plastic surgical implants and indwelling catheters. S. epidermidis now accounts for at least 22% of bloodstream infections in intensive care unit patients in the USA, which occur in at least 4–5/1000 CVC (central venous catheter) insertions.

The research and its findings

Excerpts from the study:

“The present study evaluated the non-thermal effects of wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) operating at 2.4 GHz part of non-ionizing EMF on different pathogenic bacterial strains (Escherichia coli 0157H7, Staphylococcus aureus, and Staphylococcus epidermis). Antibiotic resistance, motility, metabolic activity and biofilm formation were examined.”
“In this case-control, a Wi-Fi router was used as a source of microwaves and bacterial cells were exposed to Wi-Fi radiation continuously for 24 and 48 hours.”

Note: This it the frequency that many if not all Wifi signals transmit at. There are other frequencies starting to be used, however the mass majority of Wifi routers transmit at this frequency.

The Results

“The exposure to Wi-Fi radiation altered motility and antibiotic susceptibility of Escherichia coli 0157H7. However, there was no effect Wi-Fi radiation on antibiotic susceptibility of Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermis. On the other hand, the exposed cells, as compared to the unexposed control, showed an increased metabolic activity and biofilm formation ability in Escherichia coli 0157H7, Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermis.”

In other words, E coli showed antibiotic resistance and biofilm formation. Biofilm formation was also observed in S. aureus and S. epidermis. Biofilm protects the bacterium in its slimy matrix from antibiotics penetrating and killing the pathogen.

“These results proposed that Wi-Fi exposure acted on bacteria in stressful manner by increasing antibiotic resistance and motility of Escherichia coli 0157H7, as well as enhancing biofilm formation by Escherichia coli 0157H7, Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermis.”

Conclusion:

Perhaps, just perhaps these bacterium and others could be affected not just by the overuse (a theory also in medical circles) but by the use of Wifi in the hospital and home setting?
I would like to see studies done on other pathogenic bacterium and how they react to Wifi routers and other forms of electricity.


References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31750272
https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/pdfs/CDC-E.-coli-Factsheet.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3645889/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2082889/
https://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/staph.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2807625/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofilm