Tetracycline resistance and Class 1 integron genes associated with indoor and outdoor aerosols

Environ Sci Technol. 2013 May 7;47(9):4046-52. doi: 10.1021/es400238g. Epub 2013 Apr 10.


Genes encoding tetracycline resistance and the integrase of Class 1 integrons were enumerated using quantitative PCR from aerosols collected from indoor and outdoor environments. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and human-occupied indoor environments (two clinics and a homeless shelter) were found to be a source of airborne tet(X) and tet(W) genes. The CAFOs had 10- to 100-times higher concentrations of airborne 16S rRNA, tet(X), and tet(W) genes than other environments sampled, and increased concentrations of aerosolized bacteria correlated with increased concentrations of airborne resistance genes. The two CAFOs studied had statistically similar concentrations of resistance genes in their aerosol samples, even though antibiotic use was markedly different between the two operations. Additionally, tet(W) genes were recovered in outdoor air within 2 km of livestock operations, which suggests that antibiotic resistance genes may be transported via aerosols on local scales. The integrase gene (intI1) from Class 1 integrons, which has been associated with multidrug resistance, was detected in CAFOs but not in human-occupied indoor environments, suggesting that CAFO aerosols could serve as a reservoir of multidrug resistance. In conclusion, our results show that CAFOs and clinics are sources of aerosolized antibiotic resistance genes that can potentially be transported via air movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols*
  • Air Microbiology*
  • Animals
  • Integrons / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Tetracycline Resistance / genetics*


  • Aerosols
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S