Impact of Vegetative Treatment Systems on Multiple Measures of Antibiotic Resistance in Agricultural Wastewater

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Jun 21;15(7):1295. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15071295.


Wastewater is an important vector of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes (ARB/G). While there is broad agreement that ARB/G from agricultural (ag) wastewaters can be transported through the environment and may contribute to untreatable infectious disease in humans and animals, there remain large knowledge gaps surrounding applied details on the types and amounts of ARB/G associated with different agricultural wastewater treatment options and different ag production systems. This study evaluates a vegetative treatment system (VTS) built to treat the wastewater from a beef cattle feedlot. Samples were collected for three years, and plated on multiple media types to enumerate tetracycline and cefotaxime-resistant bacteria. Enterobacteriaceae isolates (n = 822) were characterized for carriage of tetracycline resistance genes, and E. coli isolates (n = 673) were phenotyped to determine multi-drug resistance (MDR) profiles. Tetracycline resistance in feedlot runoff wastewater was 2-to-3 orders of magnitude higher compared to rainfall runoff from the VTS fields, indicating efficacy of the VTA for reducing ARB over time following wastewater application. Clear differences in MDR profiles were observed based on the specific media on which a sample was plated. This result highlights the importance of method, especially in the context of isolate-based surveillance and monitoring of ARB in agricultural wastewaters.

Keywords: agriculture; antibiotic resistance; antibiotic resistance gene; antibiotic resistant bacteria; cattle; environment; manure; tetracycline resistance gene; vegetative treatment system; wastewater.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Irrigation*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Cattle
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Humans
  • Manure / microbiology
  • Nebraska
  • Waste Water / analysis*
  • Waste Water / microbiology*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Manure
  • Waste Water