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The Effect of Residential and Agricultural Runoff on the Microbiology of a Hawaiian Ahupua'a

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The objective of this project was to study the relationship between environmental runoff and the incidence of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms (ARMO) in freshwater streams. Five water systems along the windward coast of the island of O'ahu were evaluated. Samples were collected from sites upstream of residential or agricultural areas, throughout these areas, and at sites of entrance into oceans or bays. It was hypothesized that the incidence of ARMO would increase as the stream received runoff from residential and agricultural areas. The percentage of ARMO did not increase as the streams passed through residential or agricultural areas. Surprisingly, pristine sites, well upstream from residential or agricultural areas, contained bacteria resistant to at least one antibiotic. Areas most affected by runoff did not show a significant increase in the incidence of antibiotic-resistant organisms, suggesting that the incidence of antibiotic resistance is not simply a function of contamination with agricultural or residential runoff. The correlation of antibiotic resistance with heavy metal resistance was evaluated, because others (Fasim et al., 1999; Lazar et al., 2002; Nies, 1999) have shown that antibiotic and heavy metal resistance are each carried on extrachromosomal plasmids. The vast majority of ARMO were also resistant to concentrations of heavy metals reported in the sediments of indicator streams (Waihee, system III), suggesting that an antibiotic-resistant bacterium has a high probability of having dual resistance to a heavy metal. A 3.2-kb plasmid (pSTAMP) was isolated from a bacterium with dual antibiotic and heavy metal resistance. Further analysis of the plasmid is currently in progress.

Keywords: antibiotic resistant microorganism; heavy metal resistance; watershed

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-11-01

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    Water Environment Research� (WER�) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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