Free water surface constructed wetlands (FWS CW) are efficient technologies to limit the transfer of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) originating from urban effluents into the aquatic environment. However, the decrease in ARB from inflow to outflow through the FWS CW may be explained by their transfer from the water body to the sediment. To investigate the behavior of ARB in the sediment of a FWS CW, we inoculated three microcosms with two strains of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase producing Escherichia coli (ESBL E. coli) belonging to two genotypes. Microcosms were composed of two sediments collected at two locations of an FWS CW from which the strains were isolated. Phragmites were planted in one of the microcosms. The survival curves of the two strains were close regardless of the genotype and the type of sediment. After a rapid decline, both strains were able to survive at low level in the sediments for 50 days. Their fate was not affected by the presence of phragmites. Changes in the bla content and antibiotic resistance of the inoculated strains were observed after three weeks of incubation, indicating that FWS CW sediments are favorable environments for spread of antibiotic resistance genes and for the acquisition of new antibiotic resistance.

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