Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011NJ279B

Identification and Characterization of Novel Antibiotic Resistance Genes from Wastewater Effluents and Surface Waters

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2012-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,001

Principal Investigators: Maryam Honarbakhsh, Elisabetta Bini

Abstract: Massive use of antibiotics in human medicine and animal farming has been linked to the emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases. The presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in effluents of wastewater treatment plants (WTPs), combined with the presence of antibiotic pollutants, may play a role in the selection of antibiotic resistance within natural communities. This work is part of a broader project focusing on the correlation between antibiotic pollution and spread of resistance to natural microbial populations. Our previous data support the hypothesis that the natural environment may become a reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes. We observed differences in the structure of the microbial communities in WTP effluents and downstream from the discharge. Despite their differences, all isolates showed resistantance to elevated concentrations of amoxicillin, and many showed azithromycin and trimethoprim resistance, regardless of the site of sampling. The goal of this project is to establish if resistance is due to lateral gene transfer from WTP microorganisms or to the selection of rare pre-existing resistance genes in native communities. Specific aims of this project are to: (1) identify antibiotic resistant genes encoded by mobile genetic elements; (2) identify antibiotic resistant genes that are chromosome-encoded; (3) compare the sequences of antibiotic resistance genes from WTP effluents from upstream and downstream locations using bioinformatic methods to assess their origin and their relationships. The results of this analysis will allow us to distinguish between possible mechanisms through which antibiotic resistance may have been acquired by native microbial communities.