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

16th national competition for scientific and technical research

Climate change

Senior Researcher : María Teresa Muniesa Pérez

Research Centre or Institution : Universidad de Barcelona.


This 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.

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