Local applications but global implications: Can pesticides drive microorganisms to develop antimicrobial resistance?

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Mar 1:654:177-189. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.11.041. Epub 2018 Nov 6.


Pesticides are an important agricultural input, and the introduction of new active ingredients with increased efficiencies drives their higher production and consumption worldwide. Inappropriate application and storage of these chemicals often contaminate plant tissues, air, water, or soil environments. The presence of pesticides can lead to developing tolerance, resistance or persistence and even the capabilities to degrade them by the microbiomes of theses environments. The pesticide-degrading microorganisms gain and employ several mechanisms for attraction (chemotaxis), membrane transport systems, efflux pumps, enzymes and genetical make-up with plasmid and chromosome encoded catabolic genes for degradation. Even the evolution and the mechanisms of inheritance for pesticide-degradation as a functional trait in several microorganisms are beginning to be understood. Because of the commonalities in the microbial responses of sensing and uptake, and adaptation due to the selection pressures of pesticides and antimicrobial substances including antibiotics, the pesticide-degraders have higher chances of possessing antimicrobial resistance as a surplus functional trait. This review critically examines the probabilities of pesticide contamination of soil and foliage, the knowledge gaps in the regulation and storage of pesticide chemicals, and the human implications of pesticide-degrading microorganisms with antimicrobial resistance in the global strategy of 'One Health'.

Keywords: Antimicrobial resistance; Bacterial degradation; Chemotaxis; Efflux pumps; Pesticides; ‘One health’.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biotransformation
  • Chemotaxis / drug effects
  • Chemotaxis / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Microbiota / drug effects*
  • Microbiota / genetics
  • Microbiota / physiology
  • Pesticides / chemistry
  • Pesticides / metabolism
  • Pesticides / toxicity*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Pesticides