Research ArticleHEALTH AND MEDICINE

Antibiotic resistance in European wastewater treatment plants mirrors the pattern of clinical antibiotic resistance prevalence

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Science Advances  27 Mar 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 3, eaau9124
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau9124

Abstract

Integrated antibiotic resistance (AR) surveillance is one of the objectives of the World Health Organization global action plan on antimicrobial resistance. Urban wastewater treatment plants (UWTPs) are among the most important receptors and sources of environmental AR. On the basis of the consistent observation of an increasing north-to-south clinical AR prevalence in Europe, this study compared the influent and final effluent of 12 UWTPs located in seven countries (Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Cyprus, Germany, Finland, and Norway). Using highly parallel quantitative polymerase chain reaction, we analyzed 229 resistance genes and 25 mobile genetic elements. This first trans-Europe surveillance showed that UWTP AR profiles mirror the AR gradient observed in clinics. Antibiotic use, environmental temperature, and UWTP size were important factors related with resistance persistence and spread in the environment. These results highlight the need to implement regular surveillance and control measures, which may need to be appropriate for the geographic regions.

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