WESTWOOD—UCLA researchers recently discovered high levels of antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) in 24 parks in four California cities. ARGs lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to the New York Times, antibiotic resistance is increasing at a fast rate and is expected to kill 10 million people per year by 2050.

Researchers in the study found different concentrations. In general, air, soil and water from Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno and Bakersfield parks contained high quantities of the genes in bacteria cells.

Antibiotic-resistant genes are not toxic on their own, even when they are free-floating on benign bacteria cells. A problem arises when they become a part of organisms that are pathogenic. Resistant genes get transferred to pathogens in three different ways: when cells reproduce, when cells become infected by viruses and through the uptake of free-floating DNA.

In all the surveyed parks, high levels of a gene that resists sulphadimidine, an antibiotic that was first mass manufactured, was found in the soil. There is not enough data to show how many more antibiotic-resistant genes live than would occur naturally.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has launched the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, encouraging physicians to only prescribe antibiotics when needed, in response to the commonality of antibiotic-resistant infections.