A coliform-targeted metagenomic method facilitating human exposure estimates to Escherichia coli-borne antibiotic resistance genes

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2018 Mar 1;94(3). doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiy024.


Antimicrobial resistance and the spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) pose a threat to human health. Community-acquired infections resistant to treatment with first-line antibiotics are increasing, and there are few studies investigating environmental exposures and transmission. Our objective is to develop a novel targeted metagenomic method to quantify the abundance and diversity of ARGs in a faecal indicator bacterium, and to estimate human exposure to resistant bacteria in a natural environment. Sequence data from Escherichia coli metagenomes from 13 bathing waters in England were analysed using the ARGs Online Analysis Pipeline to estimate the abundance and diversity of resistance determinants borne by this indicator bacterium. These data were averaged over the 13 sites and used along with data on the levels of E. coli in English bathing waters in 2016 and estimates of the volume of water that water users typically ingest in an average session of their chosen activityto quantify the numbers of ARGs that water users ingest. Escherichia coli in coastal bathing waters were found to harbour on average 1.24 ARGs per cell. Approximately 2.5 million water sports sessions occurred in England in 2016 that resulted in water users ingesting at least 100 E. coli-borne ARGs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • England
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / isolation & purification
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Infections / microbiology
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Metagenome / drug effects
  • Metagenomics
  • Seawater / microbiology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents