Tetracycline-resistant coliforms in the effluent of the main sewage treatment plant in Hamilton, Ontario — do they have a common ancestral strain?
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Sewage, a major source of bacterial contamination of the environment, can be an important health hazard. The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in sewage can exacerbate this problem. The sources of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in sewage are, for this reason, worth identifying and addressing. The bacterial flora in the effluent of the Woodward Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant (WAWTP) in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, contains many antibiotic-resistant coliforms. Here we ask, are the antibiotic resistance genes in the coliforms in the effluent of WAWTP descended from a recent common ancestor strain? If so, the source could be identified and eliminated. If, on the other hand, the antibiotic resistance genes in the bacterial flora of the WAWTP have more than one origin, identification and elimination of the source(s) could be difficult. There was considerable diversity of antibiotic resistance patterns and antibiotic resistance genes among the effluent and influent coliform isolates of the WAWTP, suggesting multiple genetic ancestry. The patterns of horizontal transmissibility and sequence differences in the genes tetA and tetE among these coliform isolates also suggest that they have no one predominant ancestral strain. Using the same logic, the evidence presented here is not compatible with a single ancestral origin of the antibiotic resistance genes in the isolates described herein.
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