A quantitative concept to study human-derived antibiotic resistance in rivers along the human wastewater path
- Project Number: LSC18_007
- Project Lead: Alexander Kirschner, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Water Quality and Health
- Project Partner: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna / Department of Agrobiotechnology, IFA-Tulln, Medical University Graz, Lower Austrian Government / Department of Water
- Duration: 36 months starting from 01.03.2020
The rise in antimicrobial resistances is a global threat to human health. Apart from hospitals, where multi-resistant bacteria pose an acute problem, the spread of human-derived antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and resistance genes (ARG) from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) into river ecosystems is of growing concern as river water is used for a variety of purposes (drinking water production, recreation, irrigation). Although an increasing number of studies have been published in recent years demonstrating the presence of human-derived ARB and ARG in rivers, no comprehensive quantitative concept exists that describes and explains the distribution patterns, and driving factors of human-derived ARB and ARG in these environments. For this project, a new quantitative concept was developed to study the distribution patterns, propagation pathways and driving factors of human-derived ARB and ARG along four rivers in Lower Austria exhibiting gradients in river size, land use, fecal pollution, hospital wastewater and potential co-selection factors. The following hypotheses shall be tested: (1) In water, human-derived ARB and ARG abundances are coupled to the extent of fecal pollution from WWTPs and to the extent of wastewater input from hospitals. This coupling is independent from the longitudinal development of the river. (2) In biofilms, human-derived ARB and ARG abundances can be uncoupled from the extent of fecal pollution and from hospital wastewater input. In the presence of specific ecological selection factors such as metals or pesticides, anamplification of ARB and ARG occurs. The new concept is based on the quantification of human-derived ARB and ARG in specific bacterial targets, determined in water and biofilms by a combined cultivation and DNA-based approach. This information will be linked with quantitative data on the extent and sources of fecal pollution (following the human wastewater path) and with a comprehensive assessment of the environmental conditions. This study will stimulate new ideas to understand and manage microbial water quality and antibiotic resistance in rivers.
At the global level, the proposal is directly addressing the fundamental requirements of the research agenda defined for water, sanitation and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) of the WHO Global Action Plan for AMR. At the European level it directly addresses the concrete action plan to close knowledge gaps on AMR within the EU AMR Action Plan. At the local level, it directly contributes to the prioritised research area “Organic trace substances” within the “Water” topic of the recent FTI strategy for Lower Austria. Sustainable collaborations will be stimulated between the project partners of the ICC Water & Health at KL Krems, of the department IFA-Tulln of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and of the Medical University Graz. By this, the project will contribute in a sustainable manner to the welfare of Lower Austria and beyond.