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The Proliferation of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

Although antibiotics are unquestionably one of the most important scientific discoveries of the twentieth century, the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria now represents one of the great public health issues of the twenty-first century. Many scientists fear the antibiotic era is nearing its end and that currently treatable diseases will once again become lethal. A major contributing factor to the problem is the release of medicinal antibiotics into the environment through human waste. Because municipal wastewater treatment facilities are not specifically designed or operated to eradicate antibiotic resistant bacteria, both effluent discharge from these plants and agricultural applications of insufficiently treated wastewater sludge can release antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the environment. Timothy LaPara (Department of Civil Engineering) will work with the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services and the West Lake Superior Sanitary District to determine the extent to which wastewater treatment plants can prevent the spread of antibiotic resistant organisms. The proposed research will build upon previous work by characterizing antibiotic resistant bacteria previously isolated from a wastewater treatment effluent and by enumerating antibiotic resistant bacteria from two different sludge treatment systems. This research will identify how wastewater treatment operations can be modified to prevent the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria and suggest regulations for the use of antibiotics in human medical practice and agriculture.

Project Award Date: 
Community organization or agency: 
Metropolitan Council Environmental Services and the West Lake Superior Sanitary District
Reports and related files
Sponsoring CURA Program: 
CURA Contact: 
Edward Goetz Director, CURA (612) 624-8737