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Luneberg, K.; Prado, B.; Broszat, M.; Dalkmann, P.; Diaz, D.; Hübner, J.; Amelung, W.; Lopez-Vidal, Y.; Siemens, J.; Grohmann, E.; Siebe, C. (2018): Water flow paths are hotspots for the dissemination of antibiotic resistance in soil. In: Chemosphere, Vol. 193: pp. 1198-1206
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Abstract

Antibiotic resistance genes in soil pose a potential risk for human health. They can enter the soil by irrigation with untreated or insufficiently treated waste water. We hypothesized that water flow paths trigger the formation of antibiotic resistance, since they transport antibiotics, multi-resistant bacteria and free resistance genes through the soil. To test this, we irrigated soil cores once or twice with waste water only, or with waste water added with sulfamethoxazole (SMX) and ciprofloxacin (CIP). The treatments also contained a dye to stain the water flow paths and allowed to sample these separately from unstained bulk soil. The fate of SMX and CIP was assessed by sorption experiments, leachate analyses and the quantification of total and extractable SMX and CIP in soil. The abundance of resistance genes to SMX (sull and sul2) and to CIP (qnrB and qnrS) was quantified by qPCR. The sorption of CIP was larger than the dye and SMX. Ciprofioxacin accumulated exclusively in the water flow paths but the resistance genes qnrB and qnrS were not detectable. The SMX concentration in the water flow paths doubled the concentration of the bulk soil, as did the abundance of sul genes, particularly sull gene. These results suggest that flow paths do function as hotspots for the accumulation of antibiotics and trigger the formation of resistance genes in soil. Their dissemination also depends on the mobility of the antibiotic, which was much larger for SMX than for CIP.