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Microbiology. 2009 Jul;155(Pt 7):2306-19. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.028233-0. Epub 2009 Apr 23.

Detection of 140 clinically relevant antibiotic-resistance genes in the plasmid metagenome of wastewater treatment plant bacteria showing reduced susceptibility to selected antibiotics.

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Institute for Genome Research and Systems Biology, Center for Biotechnology, Universität Bielefeld, Postfach 100131, D-33501 Bielefeld, Germany.


To detect plasmid-borne antibiotic-resistance genes in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) bacteria, 192 resistance-gene-specific PCR primer pairs were designed and synthesized. Subsequent PCR analyses on total plasmid DNA preparations obtained from bacteria of activated sludge or the WWTP's final effluents led to the identification of, respectively, 140 and 123 different resistance-gene-specific amplicons. The genes detected included aminoglycoside, beta-lactam, chloramphenicol, fluoroquinolone, macrolide, rifampicin, tetracycline, trimethoprim and sulfonamide resistance genes as well as multidrug efflux and small multidrug resistance genes. Some of these genes were only recently described from clinical isolates, demonstrating genetic exchange between clinical and WWTP bacteria. Sequencing of selected resistance-gene-specific amplicons confirmed their identity or revealed that the amplicon nucleotide sequence is very similar to a gene closely related to the reference gene used for primer design. These results demonstrate that WWTP bacteria are a reservoir for various resistance genes. Moreover, detection of about 64 % of the 192 reference resistance genes in bacteria obtained from the WWTP's final effluents indicates that these resistance determinants might be further disseminated in habitats downstream of the sewage plant.

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