Parabens, the antimicrobial preservatives used in cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals, are often detected in the aquatic environment. Generally, sewage treatment plants (STPs) receive community sewage containing parabens, which are ultimately released into streams/rivers. In this study, bacteria in STP effluents were evaluated for their resistance to parabens. The susceptibility was in the order of Staphylococcus aureus > Bacillus sp. >Escherichia coli > Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Gram-negative bacteria showed less susceptibility than their control and Gram-positive bacteria. Further, the bacteria were more sensitive towards butyl and ethyl parabens. Interestingly, the strains showed resistance to ≥5 mg of parabens, which is equivalent to or higher than reported environmental concentrations. The increase in paraben chain length did not enhance the susceptibility in all cases and it was understood that the activity may differ for each bacterium in the environment. This is the first profile on paraben resistance in common pathogens of Indian STPs. Paraben resistance may be developed due to continuous exposure even at sub-inhibitory and/or chronic levels in the environment and this resistance may be transferred to other pathogenic bacteria in receiving waters. Thus the study demonstrates the effectiveness of the disc diffusion method in environmental bacterial resistance assessment and addresses the risk involved in the use of parabens.

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