Comparison of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli and extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli from main river basins under different levels of the sewer system development

Jung Sheng Chen, Bing Mu Hsu, Wen Chien Ko, Jiun Ling Wang

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Antimicrobial-resistant Escherichia coli in the aquatic environments is considered a strong indicator of sewage or animal waste contamination and antibiotic pollution. Sewer construction and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) infrastructure may serve as concentrated point sources of contamination of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes. In this study, we focused on the distribution of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli in two rivers with large drainage areas and different urbanisation levels. E. coli from Kaoping River with drainage mainly from livestock farming had higher resistance to antibiotics (e.g. penicillins, tetracyclines, phenicols, aminoglycosides, and sulpha drugs) and presented more positive detection of antibiotic-resistance genes (e.g. ampC, blaTEM, tetA, and cmlA1) than that from Tamsui River. In Kaoping River with a lower percentage of sewer construction nearby (0–30%) in contrast to a higher percentage of sewer construction (55–92%) in Tamsui River, antimicrobial-resistant E. coli distribution was related to livestock farming waste. In Tamsui River, antimicrobial resistant E. coli isolates were found more frequently in the downstream drainage area of WWTPs with secondary water treatment than that of WWTPs with tertiary water treatment. The Enterobacterial Repetitive Intergenic Consensus (ERIC) PCR showed that the fingerprinting group was significantly related to the sampling site (p < 0.01) and sampling date (p < 0.05). By utilising ERIC-PCR in conjunction with antibiotic susceptibility and antibiotic-resistance gene detection, the relationship among different strains of E. coli could be elucidated. Furthermore, we identified the presence of six extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli isolates and antibiotic-resistant E. coli isolates near drinking water sources, posing a potential risk to public health through community transmission. In conclusion, this study identified environmental factors related to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic-resistance gene contamination in rivers during urban development. The results facilitate the understanding of specific management of different waste streams across different urban areas. Periodic surveillance of the effects of WWTPs and livestock waste containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic-resistance genes on river contamination is necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115372
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Sept 15

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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