Water pollution and observation of acquired antibiotic resistance in Bayou Lafourche, a major drinking water source in Southeast Louisiana, USA

Abstract

Antibiotics are known to enter the environment, not only by human excretion but also through livestock/aquaculture, healthcare facilities, and pharmaceutical industry waste. Once in the environment, antibiotics have the ability to provide a selective pressure in microbial communities thus selecting for resistance. Bayou Lafourche of Southeastern Louisiana serves as the raw source of drinking water for 300,000 people in the region and has previously been shown to receive high amounts of fecal contamination. Four sites along the bayou and one site from its input source on the Mississippi River were monitored for water chemistry, total and fecal coliform estimates, and presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) for a period of 1 year. Four waste-associated bacterial isolates were tested for resistance to antibiotics (tetracycline, sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim, cefoxitin, meropenem, imipenem, erythromycin, and vancomycin). Resistant bacteria were further examined with PCR/electrophoresis to confirm the presence of antibiotic resistance genes (Sul1, tet(A), tet(W), tet(X), IMP, KPC, and OXA-48). The bayou appears to meet the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) criteria for water chemistry, yet fecal coliforms were consistently higher than LDEQ thresholds, thus indicating fecal contamination. Enterobacteriaceae isolates showed 13.6%, 10.9%, and 19.8% resistant to tetracycline, sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim, and cefoxitin, respectively, and 11 isolates were confirmed for presence of either tet(A) or Sul1 resistance genes. High fecal coliforms and presence of ARB/ARG may both indicate a presence of anthropogenic or agricultural source of fecal contamination.

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Funding

This work was supported by the funds from Louisiana Board of Regents through EPSCoR P-Fund.

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Correspondence to Raj Boopathy.

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Bird, K., Boopathy, R., Nathaniel, R. et al. Water pollution and observation of acquired antibiotic resistance in Bayou Lafourche, a major drinking water source in Southeast Louisiana, USA. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 34220–34232 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-4008-5

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Keywords

  • Antibiotics
  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • Antibiotic resistance genes
  • Tetracycline
  • Sulfonamide
  • Fecal coliform
  • Total coliform