Contribution of Time, Taxonomy, and Selective Antimicrobials to Antibiotic and Multidrug Resistance in Wastewater Bacteria

Hannah K. Gray, Keith K. Arora-Williams, Charles Young, Edward Bouwer, Meghan F. Davis, Sarah P. Preheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of nontherapeutic broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents triclosan (TCS) and benzalkonium chloride (BC) can contribute to bacterial resistance to clinically relevant antibiotics. Antimicrobial-resistant bacteria within wastewater may reflect the resistance burden within the human microbiome, as antibiotics and pathogens in wastewater can track with clinically relevant parameters during perturbations to the community. In this study, we monitored culturable and resistant wastewater bacteria and cross-resistance to clinically relevant antibiotics to gauge the impact of each antimicrobial and identify factors influencing cross-resistance profiles. Bacteria resistant to TCS and BC were isolated from wastewater influent over 21 months, and cross-resistance, taxonomy, and monthly changes were characterized under both antimicrobial selection regimes. Cross-resistance profiles from each antimicrobial differed within and between taxa. BC-isolated bacteria had a significantly higher prevalence of resistance to "last-resort antibiotic"colistin, while isolates resistant to TCS exhibited higher rates of multidrug resistance. Prevalence of culturable TCS-resistant bacteria decreased over time following Food and Drug Administration (FDA) TCS bans. Cross-resistance patterns varied according to sampling date, including among the most clinically important antibiotics. Correlations between strain-specific resistance profiles were largely influenced by taxonomy, with some variations associated with sampling date. The results reveal that time, taxonomy, and selection by TCS and BC impact features of cross-resistance patterns among diverse wastewater microorganisms, which could reflect the variety of factors influencing resistance patterns relevant to a community microbiome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15946-15957
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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