Relationship between antibiotic- and disinfectant-resistance profiles in bacteria harvested from tap water

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Chlorination is commonly used to control levels of bacteria in drinking water; however, viable bacteria may remain due to chlorine resistance. What may be concerning is that surviving bacteria, due to co-selection factors, may also have increased resistance to common antibiotics. This would pose a public health risk as it could link resistant bacteria in the natural environment to human population. Here, we investigated the relationship between chlorine- and antibiotic-resistances by harvesting 148 surviving bacteria from chlorinated drinking-water systems and compared their susceptibilities against chlorine disinfectants and antibiotics. Twenty-two genera were isolated, including members of Paenibacillus, Burkholderia, Escherichia, Sphingomonas and Dermacoccus species. Weak (but significant) correlations were found between chlorine-tolerance and minimum inhibitory concentrations against the antibiotics tetracycline, sulfamethoxazole and amoxicillin, but not against ciprofloxacin; this suggest that chlorine-tolerant bacteria are more likely to also be antibiotic resistant. Further, antibiotic-resistant bacteria survived longer than antibiotic-sensitive organisms when exposed to free chlorine in a contact-time assay; however, there were little differences in susceptibility when exposed to monochloramine. Irrespective of antibiotic-resistance, spore-forming bacteria had higher tolerance against disinfection compounds. The presence of chlorine-resistant bacteria surviving in drinking-water systems may also carry additional risk of antibiotic resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-141
Number of pages10
Early online date8 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • antimicrobial resistance
  • disinfection
  • susceptibility
  • drinking water
  • drinking water safety


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