Antibiotic resistance of autochthonous and fecal bacteria in rivers.

During the past sixty years, the utilization of antimicrobial drugs has steadily increased.Antibio resist1b Antimicrobials are extensively used in human medicine and veterinary practices to treat or prevent bacterial infectious diseases. In addition, antimicrobials have also been used for years at subtherapeutic concentrations as growth promoters in animal husbandry. Indiscriminate use of antimicrobials has resulted in the increase in the number of antimicrobial resistant (AR) bacteria. Today, the dissemination of AR bacteria in the environment and the spread of resistance genes among environmental bacteria represent a major challenge for public health in the modern world.

Faecal bacteria that have been exposed to high levels of antimicrobials in the human or animal digestive track can acquire AR; the release of AR faecal bacteria by wastewaters (treated or not) could play a key role in AR determinants dissemination.Antibio resist2

Indeed, in sewage-contaminated rivers horizontal resistance gene transfer can occur in both directions: pathogenic strains might receive resistance genes from autochthonous bacteria and resistance determinants present in faecal bacteria can be spread over to the autochthonous bacterial community.

In this study ESA addressed the following main questions: 1) What is the occurrence of AR in aquatic environments contaminated with faecal bacteria from different origin (human, animals) ? 2) Is there any relationship between the degree of sewage pollution of a river and the occurrence of AR heterotrophic bacteria ? 3) What is the phylogenetic composition of the AR heterotrophic bacteria and what are their patterns of resistance?


ESA-ULB (Servais, P.), EPHE (Chevreuil, M., Eurin, J.)

ESA members participating to this study:

Servais, P., Passerat, J., Garcia-Armisen, T., Reis, S., Duchateau, S.

Period of the study:

January 2004 – December 2014.

Financial support:

PIREN Seine Program (

Master thesis performed in the scope of this study:

Reis, S., 2005. Contribution à l’étude de l’antiobiorésistance des bactéries fécales présentes dans les eaux de surface.

Duchateau, S. 2006. Résistance aux antibiotiques des bactéries d’intérêt sanitaire présentes des eaux de surface


Garcia-Armisen, T, Anzil, A., Cornelis, P., Chevreuil, M. & Servais P. 2013. Identification of antimicrobialresistant bacteria in rivers: insights into cultivation bias. Water Research. 47: 4938-4947.

Garcia-Armisen, T., Vercammen, K, Passerat, J., Triest, D., Servais, P. & Cornelis, P. 2011. Antimicrobial resistance of heterotrophic bacteria in sewage-contaminated rivers. Water Research. 45 : 788-796.

Passerat, J., Tamtam, F., Lebot, B., Eurin, J., Chevreuil, M. & Servais, P. 2010. Antimicrobials and faecal bacteria resistant to antimicrobials in the rivers of the Seine River watershed: impacts of hospital effluents. European Journal of Water Quality. 41: 1-13.

Servais, P.  & Passerat, J. Antimicrobial resistance of fecal bacteria in waters of the Seine river basin (France). Science of the Total Environment. 2009. 408: 365-372.