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Front Microbiol. 2015 Mar 3;6:163. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00163. eCollection 2015.

Effects of 100 years wastewater irrigation on resistance genes, class 1 integrons and IncP-1 plasmids in Mexican soil.

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Institute for Epidemiology and Pathogen Diagnostics, Julius Kühn-Institut - Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (JKI) Braunschweig, Germany.
Department of Infectious Diseases, University Hospital Freiburg Freiburg, Germany ; Microbiology, Faculty for Biology, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg Freiburg, Germany.
Chair of Soil Ecology, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg Freiburg, Germany.
Instituto de Geología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria Mexico City, Mexico.


Long-term irrigation with untreated wastewater can lead to an accumulation of antibiotic substances and antibiotic resistance genes in soil. However, little is known so far about effects of wastewater, applied for decades, on the abundance of IncP-1 plasmids and class 1 integrons which may contribute to the accumulation and spread of resistance genes in the environment, and their correlation with heavy metal concentrations. Therefore, a chronosequence of soils that were irrigated with wastewater from 0 to 100 years was sampled in the Mezquital Valley in Mexico in the dry season. The total community DNA was extracted and the absolute and relative abundance (relative to 16S rRNA genes) of antibiotic resistance genes (tet(W), tet(Q), aadA), class 1 integrons (intI1), quaternary ammonium compound resistance genes (qacE+qacEΔ1) and IncP-1 plasmids (korB) were quantified by real-time PCR. Except for intI1 and qacE+qacEΔ1 the abundances of selected genes were below the detection limit in non-irrigated soil. Confirming the results of a previous study, the absolute abundance of 16S rRNA genes in the samples increased significantly over time (linear regression model, p < 0.05) suggesting an increase in bacterial biomass due to repeated irrigation with wastewater. Correspondingly, all tested antibiotic resistance genes as well as intI1 and korB significantly increased in abundance over the period of 100 years of irrigation. In parallel, concentrations of the heavy metals Zn, Cu, Pb, Ni, and Cr significantly increased. However, no significant positive correlations were observed between the relative abundance of selected genes and years of irrigation, indicating no enrichment in the soil bacterial community due to repeated wastewater irrigation or due to a potential co-selection by increasing concentrations of heavy metals.


IncP-1 plasmids; aminoglycoside resistance; class 1 integrons; quaternary ammonium compound resistance; tetracycline resistance; wastewater irrigation

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