Wrong Focus by Scientists Should Be Next Inquiry:
Expanding Antibiotic Resistant Plague
By Jim Bynum, VP and Gail Bynum, Ph.D
Help for Sewage Victims
In the September 11, 2009 article on the 2006 spinach outbreak, "Wild Boar or Waste
Water? Who Slimed the Spinach?", the question was "Can Wildlife Really be Blamed when
U.S. is Using Contaminated Water to Irrigate our Fields?". The article traced the roots of
the antibiotic resistant Shiga Toxin producing E. coli 0157:H7 from a naval officer at the
Naval Biosciences Laboratory at University of California, Oakland in 1975 to the first
documented wild boar infection in 2006. While the source of the contamination was never
fully determined by CDC, the same strain of E. coli 0157:H7 was found in San Benita River
water as well as cattle and wild pigs. The most disturbing part of the CDC study was a
remark that they also found E. coli 0157:H7 in the river and on the ranch that did not match
the outbreak strain. This is a clear indication that this deadly E. coli 0157:H7 mutant clone
is still swapping genetic material as it moves through wastewater treatment plants into the
environment in treated sewage sludge fertilizer, treated sewage effluent and treated
sewage effluent reclaimed water irrigation. As of September 2006, CDC had documented
3,520 unique strains of E. coli O157:H7.
The contamination of vegetables has been blamed on animals. The habitats have been
removed around fields as well as buffers along streams. Yet, a recent study by the
University of California at Davis (UC) could only find 20 infected species in 3 counties, even
though there have been 20 contaminated outbreaks since 1995. What they found were
two cowbirds, two coyotes, five crows, one deer mouse and 10 feral pigs infected with E.
coli 0157:H7. No E. coli 0157:H7 strains were found in deer, opossums, raccoons, skunks,
ground squirrels or other bird and mouse species.
The question is how could so few animals become infected with an antibiotic resistant Shiga
Toxin producing bacteria never before seen in nature before 1975, if they contributed to
the CDC's estimate of 73,000 E. coli 0157:H7 human illnesses in the United States annually
(2002). Foodborne illnesses have become a plague based on CDC's 1999 estimate of 76
million cases of foodborne illnesses each year. That is one out of ever four people in the
US. That is also 38 times the 2 million foodborne cases reported by Microbiologist Charles
Gerba and EPA in 1986.
Currently, the most prevalent clinical plague strains of Shiga Toxin producing E.coli are
026, 029, 039, 045, 0103, 0111, 0113, 0121, 0128, 0145. Other emerging clinical strains
are O96:H19, ONT:NM, ONT: H18, and ONT:H14. The shiga-like toxins strains may cause
bloody diarrhea leading to the development of Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and
death. Other mutant strains of food and water borne shiga-toxin producing bacteria that
create HUS are not even on the publics radar, such as: Campylobacter, Citrobacter,
Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia.
The First Step on the Path to Modern Plagues
In 1973, Herbert Boyer, professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics at the UC San
Francisco, and Stanley Cohen, Stanford, deliberately transferred antibiotic resistant genes
from salmonella and staphylococcus bacteria into E. coli, thereby creating new bacteria
strains never before seen in nature. The insertion of antibiotic resistant genes became the
standard to verify the transfer of targeted genetic material into genetically modified crops
as well as mutant bacteria now used in manufacturing processes and pesticides.
Boyer noted in his Oral History that it was normal procedure to grow up to 10 liters of
bacteria and dump them down the drain. He said the scientific community was concerned
about the "hazards" of this type of research, especially the potential recombination of a
bacterial plasmid with a cancer causing animal virus. The concern was the sewers could
end up full of cancer causing bacteria. Boyer rejected the scientific concern because he
thought releasing mutant bacteria in sewers would be no worse that peeing in the ocean.
The government temporarily stopped his research, but apparently duplicated his research
at its UC Oakland facility, where the naval officer was infected with the first case of E. coli
0157. A patent for the process was issued to Boyer and Cohen in 1980.
Like Boyer, few scientists could conceive that sewage treatment plants would become swap
meets for bacteria to collect new genes in the 1970s, including genes for antibiotic
resistance. EPA first documented transfer of genes between bacteria in sewage treatment
plants in a 1982 study by Mark Meckes. The study documented that a higher percentage of
antibiotic resistant bacteria were released from the treatment plant than entered it in raw
sewage. A 1984 Canadian study found rare pathogens in chlorinated sewage sludge such
as, Yersinia enterocolitica, Yersinia pestis (Black Plague), Pasteurella multocida, and
Hafnia alvei. The study also confirmed an increase in the number of mutant antibiotic
resistant pathogens released from treatment plants due to chlorination. These studies and
similar ones appear to explain the 3,520 E. coli 0157:H7 mutant clones developing from
that first 1975 infection.
Antibiotic Resistant Disease Causing Organisms.
Antibiotics do not effect viruses or viral infections. Even though viruses in treated sewage
may be extreme pathogens, and cause obesity, only bacteria for which standard test are
available are addressed here.
The current accepted theory for the creation of antibiotic resistance has been the misuse,
or overuse, of antibiotics by doctors and/or the use of antibiotics in livestock by farmers.
This theory apparently has its roots in the high use of antibiotics in Japan in the 1950s and
60s during which time antibiotic resistance became a major problem, while the rest of the
world seemed to have escape the problem. There is little doubt now that the lack of
antibiotic resistance problems in the U.S at that time can be attributed to the fact we were
not spreading contaminated sewage on our food crops. Scientists learned that when new
forms of pathogens are introduced into any isolated society as they were in Japan after
World War II by the occupation armies, the new pathogens will overwhelm weakened
immune systems. The occupying armies were made aware of this phenomenon and warned
not to eat raw vegetables and fruit.
In promoting treated sewage use and reclaimed water on food crops, regulators, sewage
scientists, and the sewage industry harp on the point that Japan was a country that had
used human waste as a fertilizer on food crops for hundreds of years with no problems.
The saving grace for most people is the human immune systems ability to adapt and
protect the survivors from those pathogens we are routinely exposed to in daily life.
However, we now understand that even with a good immune system, when antibiotic
resistant genes are transferred to gut bacteria, the gut bacteria may retain that antibiotic
resistance for more than four years.
Even a good immune system may not protect you from the six newest antibiotic resistant
superbugs found in sewage and sludge: Staphylococcus (MRSA) (19,000 deaths annually;
Acinetobacter baumannii (20 -50% death rate); Aspergillus fungus (50 - 60% death rate);
Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; and the
thermotolerant fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Klebsiella spp. Aspergillus
fungus is a major risk with composted sludge. Staphylococcus (MRSA) is an example of a
plague spreading slowly after EPA opened the sludge floodgates in 1993 when there were
only 1,900 hospitalizations. By 2005 the hospitalizations had climbed to 368,300.
God Mandated Land Application of Sewage?
In the 1979 History of Land Application as a Treatment alternative, EPA claims land
treatment of sewage was mandated by God in biblical times (Deuteronomy 23: 13). The
point was God didn't want to step in shit as He walked through the camp. Based on the
following verse, God would consider dumping contaminated human waste in our surface
water and on our food very unholy.
By the time EPA was created in 1970 scientists had recognized that dilution of sewage
pollutants in water was not a sustainable disposal option. Our surface water was extremely
polluted and even the ocean environment was being destroyed by sludge dumping and
sewage outfalls. EPA decided the best way to protect our waters was to recreate the
sewage land treatment systems of the 1800 and early 1900s. To that end, in 1981 EPA,
FDA and USDA created a federal policy to promote the release of bacteria and other
pathogens to the environment through sewage effluent, reclaimed sewage water and
sewage sludge. The purpose of the policy was to remove contaminated sewage sludge and
sewage effluent from the nations waters. This was a political requirement included in the 69
billion dollar federal grants program to build primary sewage treatment plants. However,
there was a conflict with the available science which showed none of the treatment
processes actually killed pathogens which could survive on grazing land for over 70 weeks.
Hiding the Pathogens in Sludge and Reclaimed Water
It was EPA's original contention in the proposed 1989 guidelines that there were only five
bacteria pathogens of concern in sewage sludge (Campylobacter, Escherichia coli
(pathogenic species), Salmonella, Shigella, and Vibrio Cholerae). All reference to named
bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminths were removed from the final 1993 part 503
sludge guidelines because of the political requirement for land treatment as an alternate to
disposal in a landfill. Based on the testing requirements, EPA chose to focus on
inactivating the gram negative coliform family of Enterobacteriaceae, particularly E. coli and
Salmonella, for which standard tests were available.
The standard coliform test for Enterobacteriaceae in water and reclaimed water is done at
midrange (30 - 40 C) growth temperature of 35°C (95°F). The confirmation test for fecal
contamination is the fecal coliform test for thermotolerant members of Enterobacteriaceae
done at 44.5° C. (112.1° F), usually for the superbugs, E. coli and/or Kelbsiella. Generally
less than 5% of Enterobacteriaceae are active in the thermotolerant test. E. coli 0157:H7 is
University of California scientists have now exposed the fraudulent tests required by EPA.
They state, "Whether talking about Good Agricultural Practices or TMDL's (Total Maximum
Daily Loads) in ag-runoff water, developing fruit and vegetable microbial standards, food
safety management and certification plans, or setting regional water policy, basing
decisions on total numbers of 'Coliform' bacteria or 'Fecal Coliforms' is not supported by
current science. These days, there is a lot of talking and a lot of confusion. It may be
helpful to look at Figure 1 and realize that all 'Fecal Coliforms' are also 'Coliforms' and
some Fecal Coliforms are non-pathogenic E. coli and some are pathogenic and toxigenic E.
coli . Some pathogens, such as Salmonella are 'Coliforms' but don't give a positive result in
tests for 'Fecal Coliforms'."
Reclaimed Water in Salinas Valley, CA.
State rules required the inactivation of most viable bacteria but do allow some viable
coliform contamination. In developing the reclaimed sewage system for irrigating the 12,000
acre Salinas Valley vegetable crops, scientists only tested for E. coli 0157:H7, Legionella,
Salmonella and the parasites Cyclospora, Cryptosporidium and Giardia within the treatment
plant. It was their stated false assumption that microorganisms could not pass through
leaves and plant roots into the edible tissues. Yet, the authors made a non-scientific
positive statement that "viable organisms of public concern" were not present in the final
All pathogenic organisms were not included and many disinfected organisms survive by
entering a viable but nonculturable state by standard lab methods. Sewage scientists tell us
these organism are dead, but they have a habit of coming back to life. A current study
show the pathogenic organisms Aeromonas, Legionella, Mycobacterium, and
Pseudomonas, occurred more frequently in reclaimed water than coliform, fecal coliform or
Sewage Scientists and Regulators who Promote "Treated" Sewage Use
Sewage scientists claim treated sewage sludge and reclaimed water are safe for use on
fruits and vegetables based on federal guidelines. The federal guidelines (part 503) assure
the public Class A sludge containing up to 1,000 thermotolerant fecal coliforms per gram of
solids when it leaves the treatment process is perfectly safe for direct contact on lawns,
parks and school grounds because it only indicates pathogenic disease causing organisms
may be present. The guidelines also assure farmers liquid Class B with 2 million
thermotolerant bacteria per gram of sludge disposed of on grazing land is safe for cattle
grazing after 30 days. Not only that, but 30 days after sludging a field, it is safe to harvest
food crops, feed crops, and fiber crops. What EPA doesn't want you to know is that the
thermotolerant fecal coliform test itself inactivates all of the disease causing family of
Enterobacteriaceae except for less that 5%, while other members of the family
Enterobacteriaceae in the sludge continue to multiply every 20 minutes or so. Not only
that, but EPA documents show bacteria may survive in soil and only grazing land for over
one year, and on vegetables for up to six months.
Sewage scientists blame the victims who fail to properly wash their hands, wash vegetables
and fruits, or cook the food until it is well done. They know treatment only temporarily
inactivates some disease causing organisms, organisms may be inside the vegetables and
fruits, and that some disease causing organisms may be killed by cooking, but the deadly
toxins they produce as they die are not affected by the high heat. While there a large group
of toxins, a major concern is necrotizing toxins (flesh eating) which kill cells. FDA doesn't
want you to know it signed the 1981 policy and it is one of the parties responsible for
spreading these disease causing organisms on food crops.
In its new school lunch programs USDA is going to depend on "industry recognized best
practices" rather than establishing appropriate safety standards. The only Shiga Toxin
producing bacteria recognized by USDA guidelines is E. coli 0157:H7. USDA doesn't want
you to know it is one of the parties that signed the 1981 policy and is responsible for
spreading these disease causing organisms on farms and grazing land.
Recently, the taxpayers of Columbus, Ohio paid a $10,000 fine because the Sewage
Department was responsible for dumping thousands of gallons of treated liquid sewage
sludge on a farm where runoff poisoned Paint Creek in Fayette County. Ohio's EPA is
proposing a ban on sludge dumping on the 8,800 permitted farm fields between December
15 and March 1 when the ground may be frozen or covered with snow. Ohio EPA doesn't
want its citizens to know any major rainfall will cause runoff during the rest of the year
poisoning surface waters and due to a statutory exemption in the Clean Water Act that
poisonous runoff mixture of chemicals and disease causing organisms is legal.
Adapted from technical paper "Wrong Focus by Scientists Should Be Next Inquiry"