Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 100, Issue 4, pp 1543–1557 | Cite as

Antibiotic resistance in urban aquatic environments: can it be controlled?

  • Célia M. ManaiaEmail author
  • Gonçalo Macedo
  • Despo Fatta-Kassinos
  • Olga C. Nunes


Over the last decade, numerous evidences have contributed to establish a link between the natural and human-impacted environments and the growing public health threat that is the antimicrobial resistance. In the environment, in particular in areas subjected to strong anthropogenic pressures, water plays a major role on the transformation and transport of contaminants including antibiotic residues, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and antibiotic resistance genes. Therefore, the urban water cycle, comprising water abstraction, disinfection, and distribution for human consumption, and the collection, treatment, and delivery of wastewater to the environment, is a particularly interesting loop to track the fate of antibiotic resistance in the environment and to assess the risks of its transmission back to humans. In this article, the relevance of different transepts of the urban water cycle on the potential enrichment and spread of antibiotic resistance is reviewed. According to this analysis, some gaps of knowledge, research needs, and control measures are suggested. The critical rationale behind the measures suggested and the desirable involvement of some key action players is also discussed.


Water treatment Disinfection Risk assessment Database Environment-clinical relationship 



Financial support for this work was provided by project NORTE-07-0202-FEDER-038900 (NEPCAT), financed by Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional (FEDER) through ON2 (Programa Operacional do Norte). This work was partially cofinanced by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)/MEC and PIDDAC funds through projects PEst-OE/EQB/LA0016/2013 and WaterJPI/0001/2013 STARE - Stopping Antibiotic Resistance Evolution.” The authors would like to acknowledge the COST-European Cooperation in Science and Technology Action ES1403: new and emerging challenges and opportunities in wastewater reuse (NEREUS) for stimulating the work implemented in the manuscript.

Ethical statement

The content of this article is the authors’ responsibility and neither the financing entities nor any person acting on their behalf is responsible for the use, which might be made of the information contained in it.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Célia M. Manaia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gonçalo Macedo
    • 1
  • Despo Fatta-Kassinos
    • 2
  • Olga C. Nunes
    • 3
  1. 1.CBQF – Centro de Biotecnologia e Química Fina – Laboratório Associado, Escola Superior de BiotecnologiaUniversidade Católica Portuguesa/PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering and Nireas-International Water Research Centre, School of EngineeringUniversity of CyprusNicosiaCyprus
  3. 3.LEPABE - Laboratory for Process Engineering, Environment, Biotechnology and Energy, Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal

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