TitleAssociation between heavy metals and antibiotic-resistant human pathogens in environmental reservoirs: A review
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsNguyen, CC, Hugie, CN, Kile, ML, Navab-Daneshmand, T
JournalFrontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering
Date Published01/2019

Antibiotic resistance in human pathogens can proliferate under selective pressures. Heavy metals in environmental reservoirs may contribute to selecting antibiotic-resistant strains. To determine the associations between heavy metals and antibiotic resistance, a literature review was conducted to systematically collect and categorize evidence for co-occurrence of resistance to heavy metals and antibiotics within human pathogenic bacteria in water, wastewater, and soil. In total, 42 publications adhered to inclusion criteria. Across the reservoirs, zinc and cadmium were the most commonly observed heavy metals associated with resistance to antibiotics. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli were the most commonly studied bacteria with reported co-occurrence of resistance to several heavy metals and antibiotic classes. As co-selecting agents, prevalence of heavy metals in the environment can proliferate resistance to heavy metals and antibiotics through co-resistance and cross-resistance mechanisms. In comparing different reservoirs, soils and sediments harbor higher heavy metal and antibiotic resistances compared to water environments. Additionally, abiotic factors such as pH can affect the solubility and hence, the availability of heavy metals to bacterial pathogens. Overall, our review demonstrates heavy metals act as co-selecting agents in the proliferation of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens in multiple environmental reservoirs. More studies that include statistical data are needed to further describe the exposure-response relationships between heavy metals and antibiotic resistance in different environmental media. Moreover, integration of culture-based and molecular-based methods in future studies are recommended to better inform our understanding of bacterial co- and cross-resistance mechanisms to heavy metals and antibiotics.

Short TitleFront. Environ. Sci. Eng.