Antibiotic Resistance and Virulence Genes in Coliform Water Isolates

Stange C, Sidhu JP, Tiehm A, Toze S. Antibiotic resistance and virulence genes in coliform water isolates. International journal of hygiene and environmental health. 2016 Jul 26. pii: S1438-4639(16)30185-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2016.07.015.

Widespread fecal pollution of surface water may present a major health risk and a significant pathway for dissemination of antibiotic resistance bacteria. The River Rhine is one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe and an important raw water source for drinking water production. A total of 100 coliform isolates obtained from River Rhine (Germany) were examined for their susceptibility to seven antimicrobial agents. Resistances against amoxicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole and tetracycline were detected in 48%, 11% and 9% of isolates respectively. The antibiotic resistance could be traced back to the resistance genes blaTEM, blaSHV, ampC, sul1, sul2, dfrA1, tet(A) and tet(B). Whereby, the ampC gene represents a special case, because its presence is not inevitably linked to a phenotypic antibiotic resistance. Multiple antibiotics resistance was often accompanied by the occurrence of class 1 or 2 integrons. E. coli isolates belonging to phylogenetic groups A and B1 (commensal) were more predominant (57%) compared to B2 and D groups (43%) which are known to carry virulent genes. Additionally, six E. coli virulence genes were also detected. However, the prevalence of virulence genes in the E. coli isolates was low (not exceeding 4.3% per gene) and no diarrheagenic E. coli pathotypes were detected. This study demonstrates that surface water is an important reservoir of ARGs for a number of antibiotic classes such as sulfonamide, trimethoprim, beta-lactam-antibiotics and tetracycline. The occurrence of antibiotic resistance in coliform bacteria isolated from River Rhine provides evidence for the need to develop management strategies to limit the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria in aquatic environment.

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