John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Urban wastewater effluent increases antibiotic resistance gene concentrations in a receiving northern european river

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Antibiotic resistant bacteria are an emerging global problem which threatens to undermine important advances in modern medicine. The environment is likely to play an important role in dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) among both environmental and pathogenic bacteria. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) accumulate both chemical and biological waste from the surrounding urban milieu and have therefore been viewed as potential hotspots for dissemination and development of antibiotic resistance. To assess the effect of wastewater effluent on a river which flows through a Swedish city, sediment and water samples were collected from Stångån River, both upstream and downstream of an adjacent WWTP over three months. Seven ARGs and the integrase gene on class 1 integrons were quantified in the collected sediment using real‐time PCR. Liquid chromatography‐mass spectrometry was used to assess the abundance of ten different antibiotics in the water phase of the samples. The results showed an increase in ARGs and integrons downstream of the WWTP. The measured concentrations of antibiotics were low in the water samples from Stångån River, suggesting that selection for ARGs did not occur in the surface water. Instead, the downstream increase in ARGs is likely to be due to accumulation of genes present in the treated effluent discharged from the WWTP. Environ Toxicol Chem © 2014 SETAC

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