Diversity of integron- and culture-associated antibiotic resistance genes in freshwater floc

  • Drudge C
  • Elliott A
  • Plach J
 et al. 
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Clinically important antibiotic resistance genes were detected in culturable bacteria and class 1 integron gene cassettes recovered from suspended floc, a significant aquatic repository for microorganisms and trace elements, across freshwater systems variably impacted by anthropogenic activities. Antibiotic resistance gene cassettes in floc total community DNA differed appreciably in number and type from genes detected in bacteria cultured from floc. The number of floc antibiotic resistance gene cassette types detected across sites was positively correlated with total (the sum of Ag, As, Cu, and Pb) trace element concentrations in aqueous solution and in a component of floc readily accessible to bacteria. In particular, concentrations of Cu and Pb in the floc component were positively correlated with floc resistance gene cassette diversity. Collectively, these results identify suspended floc as an important reservoir, distinct from bulk water and bed sediment, for antibiotic resistance in aquatic environments ranging from heavily impacted urban sites to remote areas of nature reserves and indicate that trace elements, particularly Cu and Pb, are geochemical markers of resistance diversity in this environmental reservoir. The increase in contamination of global water supplies suggests that aquatic environments will become an even more important reservoir of clinically important antibiotic resistance in the future.

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  • Christopher N. Drudge

  • Amy V C Elliott

  • Janina M. Plach

  • Linda J. Ejim

  • Gerard D. Wright

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