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Untreated urban waste contaminates Indian river sediments with resistance genes to last resort antibiotics

Journal article
Authors Nachiket Marathe
Chandan Pal
Swapnil S. Gaikwad
Viktor Jonsson
Erik Kristiansson
D. G. Joakim Larsson
Published in Water Research
Volume 124
Pages 388-397
ISSN 0043-1354
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Mathematical Sciences
Centre for antibiotic resistance research, CARe
Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Infectious Medicine
Pages 388-397
Language en
Keywords Acinetobacter, Antibiotic resistance, Carbapenemase, India, mcr-1, NDM, River sediments
Subject categories Microbiology, Microbiology, Infectious Medicine


© 2017 Elsevier Ltd Efficient sewage treatment is critical for limiting environmental transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In many low and middle income countries, however, large proportions of sewage are still released untreated into receiving water bodies. In-depth knowledge of how such discharges of untreated urban waste influences the environmental resistome is largely lacking. Here, we highlight the impact of uncontrolled discharge of partially treated and/or untreated wastewater on the structure of bacterial communities and resistome of sediments collected from Mutha river flowing through Pune city in India. Using shotgun metagenomics, we found a wide array (n = 175) of horizontally transferable antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) including carbapenemases such as NDM, VIM, KPC, OXA-48 and IMP types. The relative abundance of total ARGs was 30-fold higher in river sediments within the city compared to upstream sites. Forty four ARGs, including the tet(X) gene conferring resistance to tigecycline, OXA-58 and GES type carbapenemases, were significantly more abundant in city sediments, while two ARGs were more common at upstream sites. The recently identified mobile colistin resistance gene mcr-1 was detected only in one of the upstream samples, but not in city samples. In addition to ARGs, higher abundances of various mobile genetic elements were found in city samples, including integron-associated integrases and ISCR transposases, as well as some biocide/metal resistance genes. Virulence toxin genes as well as bacterial genera comprising many pathogens were more abundant here; the genus Acinetobacter, which is often associated with multidrug resistance and nosocomial infections, comprised up to 29% of the 16S rRNA reads, which to our best knowledge is unmatched in any other deeply sequenced metagenome. There was a strong correlation between the abundance of Acinetobacter and the OXA-58 carbapenemase gene. Our study shows that uncontrolled discharge of untreated urban waste can contribute to an overall increase of the abundance and diversity of ARGs in the environment, including those conferring resistance to last-resort antibiotics.

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