Heavy metal contamination of source water frequently occurred in developing countries as a result of accidents. To address the problems, most of the previous studies have focused on engineering countermeasures. In this study, we investigated the effects of heavy metals, particularly copper, on the development of antibiotic resistance by establishing a copper shock loading test. Results revealed that co-selection occurred rapidly within 6 h. Copper, at the levels of 10 and 100 mg/L, significantly increased bacterial resistance to the antibiotics tested, including rifampin, erythromycin, kanamycin, and a few others. A total of 117 antimicrobial-resistance genes were detected from 12 types of genes, and the relative abundance of most genes (particularly mobile genetic elements intⅠand transposons) was markedly enriched by at least one fold. Furthermore, the copper shock loading altered the bacterial community. Numerous heavy metal and antibiotic resistant strains were screened out and enriched. These strains are expected to enhance the overall level of resistance. More noticeably, the majority of the co-selected antibiotic resistance could sustain for at least 20 h in the absence of copper and antimicrobial drugs. Resistance to vancomycin, erythromycin and lincomycin even could remain for 7 days. The prominent selection pressure by the copper shock loading implies that a real accident most likely poses similar impacts on the water environment. An accidental release of heavy metals would not only cause harm to the ecological environment, but also contribute to the development of bacterial antibiotic resistance. Broader concerns should be raised about the biological risks caused by sudden releases of pollutants by accidents.
Environmental Pollution – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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