Pima County Regional Flood Control District Monthly Brown Bag Series
Speaker: Jean McLain, Ph.D. (Associate Director, University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center)
Presentation: Antibiotic Resistance and Recycled Municipal Wastewater: Is There a Link?
Date/Time: Wed., Oct. 2, 12 p.m. (97 E. Congress, 3rd Floor Conference Rooms A & B)
In September 2013, the Centers for Disease Control reported that more than 2 million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections each year, and nearly 23,000 die as a result, putting a hard number on a growing and extremely serious public health threat. A few months earlier, the City of Flagstaff received nationwide news attention when antibiotic resistance genes were detected within the reclaimed water distribution system. Are these two findings connected? It is clear that antibiotics are over-used and misused in the United States, and the inability of the majority of wastewater treatment plants to remove antibiotics from recycled water has been established. This talk will cover current research at the University of Arizona that traces the potential for emerging contaminants (antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes) to proliferate in recycled water, and to travel through irrigation pathways to our recreational fields and into the human food supply. Our work has established the presence of natural antibiotic resistance in soil and water bacteria, and has further shown that natural resistance is extremely high in soil and water with no previous exposure to recycled water. We contend that there is a need among the research community to use standardized and rigorously validated methods for accurate assessment of bacterial resistance development in the environment. Only then will we be able to correctly identify the mechanisms contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance problem and establish water treatment and management guidelines to decrease public health concerns.