SCCWRP and its POTW member agencies in May will begin practicing collection and analysis techniques for a year-long study examining whether viable antibiotic-resistant bacteria – and the genetic material that codes for antibiotic resistance – are being discharged into the environment following the wastewater treatment process.
The study, scheduled to begin in June, will measure the prevalence of antibiotic-resistance bacteria entering nine wastewater treatments across Southern California, including an international plant at the U.S.-Mexico border. Researchers will track which bacteria and genetic material survive treatment and are discharged into receiving waters.
Researchers are particularly concerned about antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater effluent because these genes may survive the treatment processes that destroy most bacterial cells, and then may travel via treated effluent into aquatic systems. Once in the environment, potentially pathogenic bacteria in the environment can take up the antibiotic resistance genes, which could confer antibiotic resistance to other bacteria, including pathogenic strains that make humans sick.
Previous studies have documented a broad array of antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater effluent, as well as how commonly bacterial cells swap their antibiotic resistance genes with one another.
In preparation for the study’s kickoff, standard operating procedures are being circulated to all participating labs, so they can practice the techniques and ensure they can generate high-quality, comparable results.
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