Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015NJ367B

Assessment of seasonal variations and viability of antibiotic resistant genes from hospital point sources to surface waters of New Jersey

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $16,193

Principal Investigators: Alessia Eramo, Nicole Fahrenfeld

Abstract: Antibiotic resistance has become a major modern public health issue, causing 23,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. The research characterizing the release of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) from municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) serving major hospitals is currently limited. This study aims to collect crucial information about seasonal variations and fate of ARGs from hospitals. Samples will be collected during the winter and summer seasons at two WWTPs receiving hospital wastewater, at one WWTP that does not receive hospital wastewater, and from the surface water downstream of the WWTPs. This research will quantify the live and dead fraction of antibiotic resistant bacteria at the influents and effluents of WWTPs and downstream. Live and dead fractions of antibiotic resistant bacteria will be quantified with a novel use of propidium monoazide (PMA), a dye that inhibits PCR amplification of extracellular DNA or DNA originating from cells with compromised membranes. Several indicator ARGs will be quantified by qPCR in samples treated and not treated with PMA. The live/dead aspect of the project will provide important understanding of the fate and proliferation of ARGs in the environment, since extracellular DNA can be assimilated by live bacteria through horizontal gene transfer. The proposed project is especially important for New Jersey because New Jersey has high de facto water reuse rates and regulations regarding the release of ARGs from WWTPs currently do not exist. This research will assist the development of treatment and policy recommendations to combat the modern crisis of antibiotic resistance.