Antibiotic-resistance profile in environmental bacteria isolated from penicillin production wastewater treatment plant and the receiving river

Environ Microbiol. 2009 Jun;11(6):1506-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.01878.x. Epub 2009 Feb 18.


The antibiotic-resistance characteristics of bacterial strains in antibiotic production wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) that contain high concentrations of antibiotics are unknown, as are the environmental effects of the discharge of wastewater from such facilities. In this study, 417 strains were individually isolated from the effluent of a WWTP that treated penicillin G production wastewater, as well as from downstream and upstream areas of the receiving river. The minimum inhibition concentrations (MICs) of 18 antibiotics representing seven classes were then determined for each of these strains. Relatively high similarity in the bacterial composition existed between the wastewater and downstream river samples when compared with the upstream sample. High resistance ratios and MIC values were observed for almost all antibiotics in wastewater isolates, followed by strains from downstream river, of which the resistance ratios and levels were still significantly higher than those of upstream strains. The resistance ratios and levels also significantly differed among strains belonged to different species in the penicillin production wastewater effluent and downstream river. In both samples, the resistances to beta-lactam antibiotics were more frequent, with much higher levels, than the other class antibiotics. Then five clinically important resistant genes mainly coding for extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs) were determined for all strains, only bla(TEM-1) which did not belong to ESBL was detected in 17.3% and 11.0% of strains isolated from wastewater and downstream river respectively. Class I integrons were detected in 14% of wastewater isolates and 9.1% of downstream isolates, and primarily contained gene cassettes conferring resistance to aminoglycoside antibiotics. The unexpectedly high levels of multiple antibiotic resistance in strains from wastewater and downstream river were speculated to be mainly due to multidrug efflux systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Base Sequence
  • Drug Industry*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Genes, MDR
  • Industrial Waste*
  • Integrons
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Penicillin G / analysis
  • Rivers / chemistry
  • Rivers / microbiology*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Industrial Waste
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Penicillin G