Environmental Science

Recalcitrant Resistance

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Science  31 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6170, pp. 462
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6170.462-a
CREDIT: ERIC ERBE AND CHRISTOPHER POOLEY/USDA/ARS

The increased use of antibiotics is resulting in a rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) that employ biological remediation processes may provide a breeding ground for them as trace amounts of antibiotics arrive in the waste stream. Su et al. examined over 1000 Escherichia coli isolates collected from various treatment steps at two WWTPs in Guangdong Province, South China. At least 98% of the isolates were resistant to 1 of 12 screened antibiotics in either plant, and over 90% were resistant to at least three antibiotics. Plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance genes and an ampicillin resistance gene (ampC)—both common in clinical isolates—were found in ∼43% of the isolates. Disinfection steps in the plants, including UV treatment and chlorination, reduced overall bacterial abundance; however, the percentage of antibioticresistant bacteria (and presence of plasmid-mediated resistance genes) was higher in effluent after various biological treatment steps. WWTPs can therefore serve as a reservoir and distribution center of antibiotic-resistant genes and bacteria.

Environ. Sci. Processes Impacts 10.1039/c3em00555k (2014).

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