There is a growing concern about the role of the environment in the dissemination of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARG). In this systematic review, we summarize evidence for increases of ARG in the natural environment associated with potential sources of ARB and ARG such as agricultural facilities and wastewater treatment plants. A total of 5247 citations were identified, including studies that ascertained both ARG and ARB outcomes. All studies were screened for relevance to the question and methodology. This paper summarizes the evidence only for those studies with ARG outcomes (n=24). Sixteen studies were at high (n=3) or at unclear (n=13) risk of bias in the estimation of source effects due to lack of information or failure to control for confounders. Statistical methods were used in nine studies; three studies assessed the effect of multiple sources using modeling approaches, and none reported effect measures. Most studies reported higher ARG concentration downstream/near the source, but heterogeneous findings hindered making any sound conclusions. To quantify increases of ARG in the environment due to specific point sources, there is a need for studies that emphasize analytic or design control of confounding, and that provide effect measure estimates.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Partial funding for this project was provided by the National Pork Board, United States (NPB Project #13-260). This funding source was not involved in any aspect of the review design, inclusion/exclusion decisions, data collection, or formulation of conclusions.
- Antibiotic resistance genes
- effect measure
- point source
- systematic review