Microbial hitchhikers harbouring antimicrobial-resistance genes in the riverine plastisphere
The widespread nature of plastic pollution has given rise to wide scientific and social concern regarding the capacity of these materials to serve as vectors for pathogenic bacteria and reservoirs for Antimicrobial Resistance Genes (ARG). In- and ex-situ incubations were used to characterise the riverine plastisphere taxonomically and functionally in order to determine whether antibiotics within the water influenced the ARG profiles in these microbiomes and how these compared to those on natural surfaces such as wood and their planktonic counterparts.
Our results provide insights into the capacity of the riverine plastisphere to harbour a distinct set of potentially pathogenic bacteria and function as a reservoir of ARGs. The environmental impact that plastics pose if they act as a reservoir for either pathogenic bacteria or ARGs is aggravated by the persistence of plastics in the environment due to their recalcitrance and buoyancy. Nevertheless, the high similarities with microbiomes growing on natural co-occurring materials and even more worrisome microbiome observed in the surrounding water highlights the urgent need to integrate the analysis of all environmental compartments when assessing risks and exposure to pathogens and ARGs in anthropogenically-impacted ecosystems.
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