Antimicrobials are intensively used in several industries, such as in healthcare to treat patients and in agriculture to raise clean livestock. The incomplete breakdown of antimicrobials within the human or animal body results in large doses entering wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs). Though these facilities are designed to purify water for safe discharge into the environment, the employed treatments and the large dosages of antimicrobials in the wastewater create conditions which select for microbes inheriting antimicrobial resistance. The discharge of this wastewater into soil and water bodies can lead to the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance genes from one species to another throughout the greater microbial community, potentially impacting the ability of the corresponding drugs to perform their intended function.
In this project, we will analyze the populations of antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms, antimicrobial resistance genes, and residual antimicrobials found in wastewater samples taken at various treatment steps in WWTFs. Through our research, we will determine whether the increased concentration of drugs causes the selection of antimicrobial-resistant microbes in the WWTF, if the preceding treatment encourages the exchange of resistance genes between species, and how the treatment mechanism selects for antimicrobial resistance.