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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

The influence of climate change on the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria

Lead Researcher:
María Teresa Muniesa Pérez

Research Centre:
Universidad de Barcelona.


María Teresa Muniesa PérezThis project has the aim of generating data on the abundance of genes giving rise to antibiotic resistance and their mobility as a result of extreme climatic events, to discover the possible mechanisms by which they are transferred and to control the emergence of new resistances. More specifically the aim is:

  • 1. To obtain information on the genes conferring resistance to antibiotics in the bacteria of waste and river water.
  • 2 and 3. Using these two models, to evaluate how the genes giving resistance to antibiotics vary after times of heavy rain or the absence of rain.
  • 4. To evaluate and quantify the genes which confer antibiotic resistance in bacteria present in river beds, sludge and sediments of river basins.

The project started in July, 2012. qPCR reactions were optimised or designed de novo to detect 8 genes which confer resistance: betalactamases (TEM, CTX‑M clones 1 and 9), mecA of Staphylococcus aureus, armA for resistance against aminoglycosides, and the qnrA and qnrS genes for the detection of partial resistance against quinolones, corresponding to activity 1 in the project. The methodology for the extraction of bacterial DNA from water samples is ready.

In activities 2 and 3, samples are being gathered from human waste water in periods of drought (summer) and the analysis has begun for some samples taken in rainy periods (September and October). The results indicate that values vary for each gene, and that they increase during rainy periods, although the number of samples is not yet conclusive, and it is necessary to wait until a more advanced stage of the project.

For activity 4, a total of 32 samples of sludge have been collected from a waste water treatment plant, together with 5 sewer sediments, in which far greater quantities of genes conferring resistance were found than in waste water.

Scientific production
2 papers at national conferences

Researcher's web address:

María Teresa Muniesa Pérez

Dr. María Teresa Muniesa: Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology in the Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona.

She finished her doctoral thesis in the University of Barcelona, 1998. She received a grant from the Counts of Barcelona Foundation, and then from the German Alexander von Humboldt foundation, during her postdoctoral stays in the University of Würzburg and in the University of Giessen, in Germany, from 1998-2000. She received a postdoctoral grant from the Catalonian Regional Government's Biotechnology Reference Centre. She worked as Associate Professor in the Microbiology Department of the University of Barcelona in 2002. From 2003 to 2007, she was a Ramon y Cajal researcher for the Ministry of Science and Technology, and from 2007 she has been professor of the Microbiology Department in the University of Barcelona.

Her experience is based on studies of environmental water pollution, the role of bacteriophages in genetic mobility and pathogenicity gene transfer between bacteria in the environment. Among other subjects she has specialised in Shiga toxin bacteriophages and in the transfer of genes conferring resistance to antibiotics between bacteria. She has also worked on the relationship between bacteriophages and bacteria and the application of microbiological methods to determine the origin of faecal water pollution. The results of her research have been presented in more than 60 publications in international journals as well as several chapters in books. She was the principal investigator in national projects as well as privately financed projects, and has taken part in several European projects.

*All intellectual property rights belong to the author. Reproduction of all or part of the work without permission from the author is prohibited.
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