Chapter 5 : Interactions between Environmental Microbial Ecosystems and Humans: the Case of the Water Environment and Antibiotic Resistance

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This chapter reviews the current knowledge of microbial diversity in different aquatic environments, with a focus on general bacterial populations. This broader understanding of the composition of microbial communities is primarily a result of 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis. The case of antibiotic resistance is used to demonstrate how host ecosystems are influenced by external microbial communities and, in turn, how hosts influence microbial ecology. The chapter discusses knowledge gaps and suggests future research directions to address the link between microbial populations in the aquatic environment and the human microbiota. A better understanding of the microbial diversity of drinking water is necessary to design innovative and effective control strategies that will ensure safe and high-quality drinking water. The vast majority of antibiotic resistance genotyping studies have focused on tetracycline resistance, most in animal waste lagoons, with a couple of studies from alternative aquatic environments such as rivers and drinking water. Antibiotic resistance and the risks of gene exchange accelerated through water treatment are growing concerns. The recent findings of increased abundance of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes in surface water and drinking water strengthen these concerns. The interaction between environmental microbes and the human microbiota will likely reshape one's thinking on the relevance of environmental microbiology to public health.

Citation: Xi C, Bush K, Lachmayr K, Zhang Y, Ford T. 2009. Interactions between Environmental Microbial Ecosystems and Humans: the Case of the Water Environment and Antibiotic Resistance, p 81-92. In Jaykus L, Wang H, Schlesinger L (ed), Food-Borne Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815479.ch5

Key Concept Ranking

Microbial Ecology
Environmental Microbiology
16s rRNA Sequencing
Surface Water
Horizontal Gene Transfer
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Image of FIGURE 1

A model for major routes of exposure for humans to microbes in the environment, with an emphasis on the water cycle. The direction of arrows indicates the movement of microbes in the system. 1, recreational water direct exposure; 2, other indirect exposures.

Citation: Xi C, Bush K, Lachmayr K, Zhang Y, Ford T. 2009. Interactions between Environmental Microbial Ecosystems and Humans: the Case of the Water Environment and Antibiotic Resistance, p 81-92. In Jaykus L, Wang H, Schlesinger L (ed), Food-Borne Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815479.ch5
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