Heavy metal pollution can increase antibiotic resistance in rivers

We want to publicise a recent publication in the journal Environmental Pollution on research by Newcastle University and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi that quantified antibiotic and metal resistance in sediments from the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in India and streams in the River Tyne catchment. The results show heavy metals, which are high in the River Tyne catchment due to historic mining and industrial activity, relate to antibiotic resistance levels in the river. The same was seen in the Indian rivers, especially in areas of industrial activity. See the Newcastle University Press Release on this work here.

Professor Graham introduced the environmental dimensions of antibiotic resistance at the Annual Meeting of the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) Interest Group on AMR on 17 May 2022.

Faecal pollution promotes the environmental spread of AMR in Central Thailand

We want to strongly commend the manuscript Environmental antimicrobial resistance is associated with faecal pollution in Central Thailand’s coastal aquaculture region recently released in the Journal of Hazardous Materials. It is from a very interesting project led by Professor David Werner, Newcastle University, which studied the main drivers of environmental AMR spread in Central Thailand using HT-qPCR and MinION NGS. The work was in collaboration with partners at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Thailand and the Institute of Urban Environment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Graham Group contributed to the analysis and interpretation of AR gene data on the aquaculture ponds and local rivers, which corroborated that polluted rivers were contaminating the ponds, not the other way around. See more about on the clean water research being done by Professor Werner’s team on their blog. Additionally, see the Newcastle University’s press release about the work here.

New ES&T Publication: Impact of redox conditions on antibiotic resistance conjugative gene transfer frequency and plasmid fate in wastewater ecosystems

We are happy to present our new publication in Environmental Science & Technology. This paper is from Mui-Choo (Florence) Jong’s PhD research on antibiotic resistance (AR) gene transfer in low-energy sponge bioreactors. Florence showed sequential redox conditions generally enhanced AR gene removal, but she also observed very different gene transfer frequencies under different conditions. To test this observation, she developed a reporter assay using a green-fluorescent-protein tagged E. coli to track conjugative AR plasmid fate; the survival of the E. coli host cells; and gene exchange activity in aerobic, anoxic and anaerobic bioreactors, both in biofilms and the liquid phase. Overall, her work, reported in ES&T, show that aerobic conditions are better at reducing AR levels and gene transfer in wastewater ecosystems, perhaps due to the reduced host survival and in situ predation. This has major practical implications to wastewater treatment process design.

Microscopy analysis showing (A & C) Phase contrast, and (B & D) epifluorescence images of food vacuoles expressing Gfp fluorescence suggesting pRP4 host cells potentially engulfed by predatory protozoa.