Antibiotic resistance gene abundances associated with waste discharges to the Almendares River near Havana, Cuba

  1. Lookup NU author(s)
  2. Professor David Graham
  3. Professor Susana Olivares Rieumont
  4. Dr Charles Knapp
  5. Dr David Werner
  6. Dr Emma Bowen
Author(s)Graham DW, Olivares-Rieumont S, Knapp CW, Lima L, Werner D, Bowen E
Publication type Article
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Year2011
Volume45
Issue2
Pages418-424
ISSN (print)0013-936X
ISSN (electronic)1520-5851
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Considerable debate exists over the primary cause of increased antibiotic resistance (AR) worldwide. Evidence suggests increasing AR results from overuse of antibiotics in medicine and therapeutic and nontherapeutic applications in agriculture. However, pollution also can influence environmental AR, particularly associated with heavy metal, pharmaceutical, and other waste releases, although the relative scale of the “pollution” contribution is poorly defined, which restricts targeted mitigation efforts. The question is “where to study and quantify AR from pollution versus other causes to best understand the pollution effect”. One useful site is Cuba because industrial pollution broadly exists; antibiotics are used sparingly in medicine and agriculture; and multiresistant bacterial infections are increasing in clinical settings without explanation. Within this context, we quantified 13 antibiotic resistance genes (ARG; indicators of AR potential), 6 heavy metals, 3 antibiotics, and 17 other organic pollutants at 8 locations along the Almendares River in western Havana at sites bracketing known waste discharge points, including a large solid waste landfill and various pharmaceutical factories. Significant correlations (p < 0.05) were found between sediment ARG levels, especially for tetracyclines and -lactams (e.g., tet(M), tet(O), tet(Q), tet(W), blaOXA), and sediment Cu and water column ampicillin levels in the river. Further, sediment ARG levels increased by up to 3 orders of magnitude downstream of the pharmaceutical factories and were highest where human population densities also were high. Although explicit links are not shown, results suggest that pollution has increased background AR levels in a setting where other causes of AR are less prevalent.
PublisherAmerican Chemical Society
URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es102473z
DOI10.1021/es102473z
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