THE rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs such as MRSA and E.coli could be being fuelled by the amount of antibiotics released into the environment, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Stirling are warning that increasing levels of "antibiotic pollution" are becoming a public health concern.

Bacteria that would once have succumbed to antibiotics are evolving and gaining resistance through increased contact, in some cases through material released as waste.

Antibiotics are used extensively in human and veterinary medicine, as well as in aquaculture, to prevent or treat microbial infections.

They can enter the environment via waste water treatment plant effluents, hospital and processing plant effluents, agricultural waste, and leakage from landfills.

University of Stirling scientist Alfredo Tello, who led the team, said: "This study looks at the link between antibiotic pollution and antibiotic resistance from a new perspective.

"Antibiotics are being overused and we're seeing the emergence of resistance to infections that we used to be able to treat.

"Their overuse has caused a constant 'selective pressure', whereby antibiotic-resistant bacteria have increased."