Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a critical threat to human health. Many streams, rivers, and other surface water resources are environmental hotspots of antibiotic resistant gene (ARG) transfer between microbes, and aquatic environments can have high ARG loads due to receiving wastewater from hospitals, sewage treatment plants, or farms. Furthermore, municipal and recreational use of these waters often provides opportunities for resistant microbes to be introduced to humans. Understanding the factors driving environmental ARG abundance is critical to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance in clinical settings.
This work started as a project in the Ottesen Lab at the University of Georgia, and has continued by studying ARG abundance/diversity and fecal contamination in a variety of aquatic ecosystems. Current field projects target rivers and streams in central New York that are highly influenced by urban or agricultural watersheds (or both), a particularly relevant issue given the crumbling sewage infrastructure and frequent Combined Sewer Overflow events in the region. We also use bioinformatic tools to identify ARGs and fecal sources in metagenomic and amplicon sequence datasets.
Students involved: Pickett, Howell, Fedullo.
Relevant manuscripts: Damashek, Westrich et al. (in review)