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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2003 Apr 1;43(3):325-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2003.tb01073.x.

Detection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and their resistance genes in wastewater, surface water, and drinking water biofilms.

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Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH, Department of Environmental Microbiology, ITC-WGT, P.O. Box 3640, D-76021 Karlsruhe, Germany.


In view of the increasing interest in the possible role played by hospital and municipal wastewater systems in the selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, biofilms were investigated using enterococci, staphylococci, Enterobacteriaceae, and heterotrophic bacteria as indicator organisms. In addition to wastewater, biofilms were also investigated in drinking water from river bank filtrate to estimate the occurrence of resistant bacteria and their resistance genes, thus indicating possible transfer from wastewater and surface water to the drinking water distribution network. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci were characterized by antibiograms, and the vanA resistance gene was detected by molecular biology methods, including PCR. The vanA gene was found not only in wastewater biofilms but also in drinking water biofilms in the absence of enterococci, indicating possible gene transfer to autochthonous drinking water bacteria. The mecA gene encoding methicillin resistance in staphylococci was detected in hospital wastewater biofilms but not in any other compartment. Enterobacterial ampC resistance genes encoding beta-lactamase activities were amplified by PCR from wastewater, surface water and drinking water biofilms.

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