Unique wastewater antibiotic resistome

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Science  20 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6263, pp. 924-925
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6263.924-e

Genes that confer antibiotic resistance to microbiota present in wastewater treatment plants, like this treatment lagoon, are specific to that community, suggesting there is little risk that they could be transferred to the human gut microbiome


Antibiotic resistance is currently high on the list of alarms. Wastewater treatment plants essentially use microbiological bioremediation to clean up water. As such, they are an obvious potential source of mobile antibiotic resistance genes from human pathogens. Munck et al. have been investigating the risks wastewater plants pose for antibiotic resistance. They identified resistance genes in samples from 7 different years by screening with 15 antibiotics. Deep metagenomic sequencing revealed a stably maintained core set of novel genes that conferred resistance to all the antibiotics tested. This “resistome” was specific to this microbiological community, indicating that there is in fact little scope for transfer into the human gut microbiota. Although this is a reason to be cheerful, it is sobering to note that the unique wastewater genescape persists because of high levels of ambient antibiotics.

Nat. Commun. 10.1038/ncomms9452 (2015)

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