2021 journal article

Does Irrigation with Treated and Untreated Wastewater Increase Antimicrobial Resistance in Soil and Water: A Systematic Review


By: S. Slobodiuk n, C. Niven n, G. Arthur n, S. Thakur n & A. Ercumen n

co-author countries: United States of America 🇺🇸
author keywords: antimicrobial resistance; resistance genes; resistant bacteria; persistent organic pollutants; wastewater irrigation; wastewater reuse; water scarcity; water insecurity; untreated municipal wastewater; treated municipal wastewater
MeSH headings : Agricultural Irrigation; Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists; Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors; Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology; Drug Resistance, Bacterial; Genes, Bacterial; Humans; Soil; Wastewater / analysis; Water
Source: Web Of Science
Added: December 13, 2021

Population growth and water scarcity necessitate alternative agriculture practices, such as reusing wastewater for irrigation. Domestic wastewater has been used for irrigation for centuries in many historically low-income and arid countries and is becoming more widely used by high-income countries to augment water resources in an increasingly dry climate. Wastewater treatment processes are not fully effective in removing all contaminants, such as antimicrobial resistant bacteria (ARB) and antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs). Literature reviews on the impact of wastewater irrigation on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the environment have been inconclusive and mostly focused on treated wastewater. We conducted the first systematic review to assess the impact of irrigation with both treated or untreated domestic wastewater on ARB and ARGs in soil and adjacent water bodies. We screened titles/abstracts of 3002 articles, out of which 41 were screened in full text and 26 were included in this review. Of these, thirteen investigated irrigation with untreated wastewater, and nine found a positive association with ARB/ARGs in soil. Out of thirteen studies focused on treated wastewater, six found a positive association with ARB/ARGs while six found mixed/negative associations. Our findings demonstrate that irrigation with untreated wastewater increases AMR in soil and call for precautionary action by field workers, their families, and consumers when untreated wastewater is used to irrigate crops. The effect of irrigation with treated wastewater was more variable among the studies included in our review, highlighting the need to better understand to what extent AMR is disseminated through this practice. Future research should assess factors that modify the effect of wastewater irrigation on AMR in soil, such as the degree and type of wastewater treatment, and the duration and intensity of irrigation, to inform guidelines on the reuse of wastewater for irrigation.