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Recycled and aged human urine can be used as a fertilizer with low risks of transferring antibiotic resistant DNA to the environment, according to new research from the University of Michigan.
It's a key finding in efforts to identify more sustainable alternatives to widely used fertilizers that contribute to water pollution. Their high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus can spur the growth of algae, which can threaten our sources of drinking water.
Urine - Nitrogen - Phosphorus - Potassium—key - Nutrients
Urine contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium—key nutrients that plants need to grow. Today, municipal treatment systems don't totally remove these nutrients from wastewater before it's released into rivers and streams. At the same time, manufacturing synthetic fertilizer is expensive and energy intensive.
U-M leads the nation's largest consortium of researchers exploring the technology, systems requirements and social attitudes associated with urine-derived fertilizers.
Years - Group - Removal - Bacteria - Viruses
Over the last several years, the group has studied the removal of bacteria, viruses, and pharmaceuticals in urine to improve the safety of urine-derived fertilizers.
In this new study, researchers have shown that the practice of "aging" collected urine in sealed containers over several months effectively deactivates 99% of antibiotic resistant genes that were present in bacteria in the urine.
Results - Microorganisms - Break - DNA - Krista
"Based on our results, we think that microorganisms in the urine break down the extracellular DNA in the urine very quickly," said Krista Wigginton, U-M associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and corresponding author on a study published today in Environmental Science and Technology.
"That means that if bacteria in the collected urine are resistant to antibiotics and the bacteria die, as they do when they are stored in urine, the released DNA won't pose a risk of transferring resistance to bacteria in the environment when the fertilizer is applied."
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