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Rodríguez-Molina, Daloha; Mang, Petra; Schmitt, Heike; Chifiriuc, Mariana Carmen; Radon, Katja and Wengenroth, Laura (2019): Do wastewater treatment plants increase antibiotic resistant bacteria or genes in the environment? Protocol for a systematic review. In: Systematic Reviews 8:304 [PDF, 713kB]


Background: Antibiotic resistance is a global public health threat. Water from human activities is collected at wastewater treatment plants where processes often do not sufficiently neutralize antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes, which are further shed into the local environment. This protocol outlines the steps to conduct a systematic review based on the Population, Exposure, Comparator and Outcome (PECO) framework, aiming at answering the question "Are antimicrobial-resistant enterobacteriaceae and antimicrobial resistance genes present (O) in air and water samples (P) taken either near or downstream or downwind or down-gradient from wastewater treatment plants (E), as compared to air and water samples taken either further away or upstream or upwind or up-gradient from such wastewater treatment plant (C)?" Presence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and genes will be quantitatively measured by extracting their prevalence or concentration, depending on the reviewed study.

Methods: We will search PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane database and Web of Science for original articles published from 1 Jan 2000 to 3 Sep 2018 with language restriction. Articles will undergo a relevance and a design screening process. Data from eligible articles will be extracted by two independent reviewers. Further, we will perform a risk of bias assessment using a decision matrix. We will synthesize and present results in narrative and tabular form and will perform a meta-analysis if heterogeneity of results allows it.

Discussion: Antibiotic resistance in environmental samples around wastewater treatment plants may pose a risk of exposure to workers and nearby residents. Results from the systematic review outlined in this protocol will allow to estimate the extend of exposure, to inform policy making and help to design future studies.

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