Heavy metal contamination in an environment linked to antibiotic resistance

 

Heavy metal contamination in an environment linked to antibiotic resistance

Analysis finds environmental link to antibiotic resistance

By Vicky L. Sutton-Jackson*
University of Georgia

Genetic testing finds heavy metal contamination is also a culprit

Antibiotic resistance is an increasing health problem, but new research suggests it is not only caused by the overuse of antibiotics. It’s also caused by pollution.

Using a process known as genomic analysis, University of Georgia scientists found a strong correlation between antibiotic resistance and heavy metal contamination in an environment.

Jesse C. Thomas IV, an alumnus of the College of Public Health and the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, found commonalities in soils contaminated with heavy metals on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.

According to the study, recently published in the journal Microbial Biotechnology, soils with heavy metals had a higher level of specific bacterial hosts that were accompanied by antibiotic-resistant genes.

Antibiotic-resistant genes

Hosts included Acidobacteriaoceae, Bradyrhizobium and Streptomyces. The bacteria had antibiotic-resistant genes, known as ARGs, for vancomycin, bacitracin and polymyxin. All three drugs are used to treat infections in humans.

The bacteria also had an ARG for multidrug resistance, a strong defense gene that can resist heavy metals as well as antibiotics, according to Thomas, who was conducting his doctoral research at the time.

When these ARGs were present in the soil, metal-resistant genes, or MRGs, were present for several metals including arsenic, copper, cadmium and zinc.

Thomas, currently a biologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said microorganisms develop new strategies and countermeasures over time to protect themselves.

“The overuse of antibiotics in the environment adds additional selection pressure on microorganisms that accelerates their ability to resist multiple classes of antibiotics. But antibiotics aren’t the only source of selection pressure,” Thomas said. “Many bacteria possess genes that simultaneously work on multiple compounds that would be toxic to the cell, and this includes metals.”

Exerting long-standing pressure

Travis Glenn, professor in the public health college, advised Thomas during the study. He said more research needs to be done to determine if metal-resistant genes respond in the same way to bacteria as antibiotic-resistant genes.

Unlike antibiotics, heavy metals don’t degrade in the environment so “they can exert long-standing pressure,” according to Glenn, who also directs the Institute of Bioinformatics.

The study reports previous research identified antibiotic-resistance in heavy metal-contaminated streams on the site by examining water samples in the lab.

“When you expose the sample to a drug on a petri dish or assay, it only represents a fraction. This doesn’t give you a complete picture. With genomic analysis we were able to get much further,” Thomas said.

Impact on water and food

The significance of the research is they can start to characterize bacterial communities and specific ARG and MRG genes in the environment, Glenn said.

It is clear that there are several human pathogens that develop antibiotic resistance — overuse is not the only cause, according to Thomas. Human activities like agriculture and the combustion of fossil fuels play a role.

“We need a better understanding of how bacteria are evolving over time,” he said. “This can impact our drinking water and our food and eventually our health.”

Reference:

Co-occurrence of antibiotic, biocide, and heavy metal resistance genes in bacteria from metal and radionuclide contaminated soils at the Savannah River Site
Jesse C. Thomas IV Adelumola Oladeinde Troy J. Kieran John W. Finger Jr. Natalia J. Bayona?Vásquez John C. Cartee James C. Beasley John C. Seaman J Vuan McArthur Olin E. Rhodes Jr. Travis C. Glenn
Microbial Biotechnology (2020) 13( 4), 1179– 1200
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1751-7915.13578

in EcoDebate, ISSN 2446-9394, 18/08/2020

 

Para pesquisar mais sobre este tema ou outros, use a ferramenta de pesquisa

 

[CC BY-NC-SA 3.0][ O conteúdo da EcoDebate pode ser copiado, reproduzido e/ou distribuído, desde que seja dado crédito ao autor, à EcoDebate com link e, se for o caso, à fonte primária da informação ]

Inclusão na lista de distribuição do Boletim Diário da revista eletrônica EcoDebate, ISSN 2446-9394,

Caso queira ser incluído(a) na lista de distribuição de nosso boletim diário, basta enviar um email para newsletter_ecodebate+subscribe@googlegroups.com . O seu e-mail será incluído e você receberá uma mensagem solicitando que confirme a inscrição.

O EcoDebate não pratica SPAM e a exigência de confirmação do e-mail de origem visa evitar que seu e-mail seja incluído indevidamente por terceiros.

Remoção da lista de distribuição do Boletim Diário da revista eletrônica EcoDebate

Para cancelar a sua inscrição neste grupo, envie um e-mail para newsletter_ecodebate+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com ou ecodebate@ecodebate.com.br. O seu e-mail será removido e você receberá uma mensagem confirmando a remoção. Observe que a remoção é automática mas não é instantânea.

Top