2022 | Republic of Korea | Water issue adressed: Too dirty

Transfer and Suppression of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in the Water Cycle

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have proliferated due to improper antibiotic usage. Various water sources and soils are being contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria due to horizontal gene transfer. When water encounters pollutants through the water cycle, water contamination can occur and spread through water circulation. The objectives of this study were to identify the effects of the water cycle on the movement of the antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and to develop potential treatments to suppress the gene transfer. The results showed that the water cycle indeed caused ARGs to transfer to nearby freshwater and soils and negatively affect the ecosystem by spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria to water sources. Additionally, this study found that humic substances in soils near urban residential areas successfully suppressed ARGs transferred through evaporation. 

This is how I came up with the idea for this project:

After learning about antibiotic-resistant bacteria being found in South Korean tap water, I was curious how such contamination could happen as tap water sources are very well-protected. Then, remembering how the water cycle could cause water to travel long distances, we investigated whether the water cycle could transport antibiotic-resistant genes.

Ania Andersch
Programme manager
+46 8 121 360 59