Environmental engineers critical to fight against superbugs

Photo of Navab and Schutzius in the lab.
Tala Navab-Daneshmand (right) works with graduate student Genevieve Schutzius in the lab.

Environmental engineers have a unique and important role to play in combating the rise of antibiotic resistance, according to a recent high-impact paper published in the journal Environmental Engineering Science.

The paper, representing a consensus of more than 80 environmental engineering and science professors, summarizes the key knowledge gaps and research needed to understand and address environmental sources and pathways of antibiotic resistance, in order to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs in treating life-threatening infections.

Tala Navab-Daneshmand, assistant professor of environmental engineering at Oregon State University, is a contributing author of the paper. Her own work looks at the inactivation, growth, and persistence of enteric pathogens from wastewater streams in the environment. Wastewater treatment plants are identified in the paper as one of the critical “environmental hot spots” for priority research.

“One area that remains unknown is the impact of environmental stressors on the fate of enteric antibiotic resistant bacteria in different wastewater treatment systems,” Navab said. “Currently, we are working on a statewide project to identify the impact of seasonal and geographical variations on antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant genes in wastewater treatment facilities across Oregon. Furthermore, we aim to determine the environmental hotspots for the emergence of antibiotic resistance in soils and food crops after wastewater irrigation and biosolids amendment.”

The outcomes of the study are expected to have a positive impact, Navab says, as they will constitute an important early step toward the development of evidence-based policy strategies to decrease the emergence and spread of illness, disability, and death attributable to enteric antibiotic-resistant infections.

The paper, “An Environmental Science and Engineering Framework for Combating Antimicrobial Resistance,” was identified as a “high-impact article” by the publishers. It is accessible online at doi.org/10.1089/ees.2017.0520.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email