Research Topic

Environmental Reservoirs of Antibiotic Resistance Determinants: A Ticking Time Bomb for the Future Emergence of Super-Bugs of Environmental and Public Health Importance

About this Research Topic

Water scarcity is one of the major problems of this century, and the perspectives on climate change create an aggravated scenario at a global scale. Access to safe and sufficient water for human consumption has long been a priority for water policies around the world. To ensure water quality, considerable effort has been put into scientific research, technological development, monitoring, environmental protection, consumer information, and public awareness. Considering that contamination with chemical pollutants is a severe threat to water quality, the directive 2008/105/EF of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union established environmental quality standards (EQS) for a list of priority substances that may soon be extended to include some emerging pollutants, reported as ubiquitous, persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Generally, developing countries are threatened in terms of water supply as the demand for water, caused by urbanization and industrialization, fails to match its availability. However, water pollution is expected to become more frequent and severe because of climate change and drought episodes. Also, the increase in water demand for agriculture and daily life is expected to impose a growing pressure on streamflow, adding the effects of human-made water scarcity to those of natural hydrological droughts. The use of unconventional water sources, such as wastewater, has been proposed as a strategy to mitigate water scarcity. However, the risk of chemical contamination imposes tremendous efforts on quality monitoring and hampers public acceptance of wastewater reclamation.

Of these contaminants, antibiotics have been seen as an emerging pollutant, capable of causing adverse effects to environmental, animal, and human health. This has been grossly fuelled by their use for preventing and treating human and animal diseases, leading to their frequent and persistent occurrence in treated wastewater, groundwater, surface water, and solid sediments at concentrations ranging from ng/L to mg/L. Since antibiotics can cause severe damage even in trace concentrations, more studies on their human and animal effects are still needed. One of the main concerns of antibiotic pollution in the environment has been the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes and genes which represent a global public and animal health concern. The environment acts as a reservoir of resistance genes for clinically important pathogenic bacteria and resistance genes from environmental reservoirs have already been shown to be transferable to bacteria that are pathogenic to animals or humans.

This Research Topic’s main objective is to provide an interdisciplinary update, focusing on the multitude of possible interactions of antibiotics in the environment, such as the emergence of environmental resistome and super-bugs, and their possible public health effects. This Research Topic welcomes, but is not limited to, the following themes:

(1) Sources of antibiotics and antibiotic residues in the environment
(2) Point and nonpoint sources and distribution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment
(3) Environmental reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (surface water, wastewater, soil and sediments)
(4) The effects of exposure of bacteria to antibiotics on the development of resistance in the environment
(5) Metals and biocides and antibiotic resistance development in the environment
(6) Estimation of the human risk associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment
(7) Environmental selection of antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria


Keywords: environment, antibiotics, antibiotic residues, environmental resistome, antibiotic resistant bacteria, heavy metals co-selection, biocides, point source, nonpoint source, risk assessment


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Water scarcity is one of the major problems of this century, and the perspectives on climate change create an aggravated scenario at a global scale. Access to safe and sufficient water for human consumption has long been a priority for water policies around the world. To ensure water quality, considerable effort has been put into scientific research, technological development, monitoring, environmental protection, consumer information, and public awareness. Considering that contamination with chemical pollutants is a severe threat to water quality, the directive 2008/105/EF of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union established environmental quality standards (EQS) for a list of priority substances that may soon be extended to include some emerging pollutants, reported as ubiquitous, persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Generally, developing countries are threatened in terms of water supply as the demand for water, caused by urbanization and industrialization, fails to match its availability. However, water pollution is expected to become more frequent and severe because of climate change and drought episodes. Also, the increase in water demand for agriculture and daily life is expected to impose a growing pressure on streamflow, adding the effects of human-made water scarcity to those of natural hydrological droughts. The use of unconventional water sources, such as wastewater, has been proposed as a strategy to mitigate water scarcity. However, the risk of chemical contamination imposes tremendous efforts on quality monitoring and hampers public acceptance of wastewater reclamation.

Of these contaminants, antibiotics have been seen as an emerging pollutant, capable of causing adverse effects to environmental, animal, and human health. This has been grossly fuelled by their use for preventing and treating human and animal diseases, leading to their frequent and persistent occurrence in treated wastewater, groundwater, surface water, and solid sediments at concentrations ranging from ng/L to mg/L. Since antibiotics can cause severe damage even in trace concentrations, more studies on their human and animal effects are still needed. One of the main concerns of antibiotic pollution in the environment has been the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes and genes which represent a global public and animal health concern. The environment acts as a reservoir of resistance genes for clinically important pathogenic bacteria and resistance genes from environmental reservoirs have already been shown to be transferable to bacteria that are pathogenic to animals or humans.

This Research Topic’s main objective is to provide an interdisciplinary update, focusing on the multitude of possible interactions of antibiotics in the environment, such as the emergence of environmental resistome and super-bugs, and their possible public health effects. This Research Topic welcomes, but is not limited to, the following themes:

(1) Sources of antibiotics and antibiotic residues in the environment
(2) Point and nonpoint sources and distribution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment
(3) Environmental reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (surface water, wastewater, soil and sediments)
(4) The effects of exposure of bacteria to antibiotics on the development of resistance in the environment
(5) Metals and biocides and antibiotic resistance development in the environment
(6) Estimation of the human risk associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment
(7) Environmental selection of antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria


Keywords: environment, antibiotics, antibiotic residues, environmental resistome, antibiotic resistant bacteria, heavy metals co-selection, biocides, point source, nonpoint source, risk assessment


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

18 June 2021 Abstract
15 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

18 June 2021 Abstract
15 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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