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Effects of selected emerging contaminants found in wastewater on antimicrobial resistance and horizontal gene transfer

Abstract

The widespread use of emerging contaminants (ECs) may be compounding the problem of antibiotic resistance. Various non-antibiotic pollutants have been shown to alter bacterial responses to antibiotics and increase horizontal transfer of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes. ECs include components of medicines, foods, disinfectants, personal care products and agrichemicals. ECs concentrate in some environments such as in wastewater, where the pollutants and pathogenic microorganisms mix. We investigated the effects on antibiotic resistance and gene transfer of nine ECs and one commercial product formulation (Roundup). We used the bacterium Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and the antibiotics ampicillin and gentamicin as indicators of the effects of antibiotic-EC co-exposures. We measured intra-(Escherichia coli) and interspecies (E. coli x S. enterica) conjugation frequencies during exposure to ECs. Interestingly, the observed effect could change at different antibiotic concentrations. Exposures to increasing concentrations of ECs was associated with increased conjugative transmission within species, but rarely increased interspecies transmission. We report the first test ever of clotrimazole on AMR and horizontal gene transfer and a newly described effect of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), often used as a solvent for organic compounds.

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