Special Issue "Antibiotics and Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Environmental Waters and Agriculture"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Aquatic Systems—Quality and Contamination".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Elisabet Marti
Guest Editor
Agroscope (Switzerland)
Interests: antimicrobial resistance; emerging pollutants; water; agriculture; food safety; pathogens; resistome; horizontal gene transfer (HGT)
Dr. Meritxell Gros

Guest Editor
Catalan Institute for Water Research (Spain)
Interests: antibiotics; pharmaceuticals; antimicrobial resistance; emerging pollutants; water pollution; sustainability of organic fertilizers; water reuse

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent decades, the emergence of antibiotic resistance (AR) has led to global concern around a worrying trend regarding the decrease of the effectivity of the antibiotics against some multidrug-resistant pathogens. Although AR is an ancient and naturally occurring phenomenon, the intensification of anthropogenic activities has increased the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Moreover, there is no doubt that the natural environment is a huge reservoir of antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs), and a One Health approach is needed to face this problem.

Water represents the most important link between different environmental compartments. Up to 90% of pharmaceuticals and antibiotics consumed by humans end up in feces and urine, which finally go to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). As WWTP are not able to eliminate most of these compounds, treated wastewater can disseminate antibiotics and ARGs to the receiving rivers. Freshwaters are the main source of drinking water for the population. However, there is still very little information about AR in source waters, drinking water treatment plants, and in drinking water distribution systems, and if their occurrence has an impact on human health.

In addition, pharmaceuticals and antibiotics are also widely used in veterinary medicine. In this case, these compounds end up to livestock wastes, which are commonly applied in the fields as biofertilizers. Furthermore, in areas affected by water scarcity, wastewater reuse is becoming a common practice in agriculture. Both practices represent another important route of dissemination of antibiotics and ARGs into the environment (i.e., soils and groundwater) and may also contribute to the introduction of these emerging pollutants to the food chain.  

Therefore, in an effort to better understand the rising levels of AR, the aim of this Special Issue is to gather information about the role of aquatic and agricultural ecosystems in the dissemination of antibiotics and ARGs.

Dr. Elisabet Marti
Dr. Meritxell Gros
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • antibiotics
  • antibiotic resistance
  • emerging pollutants
  • water
  • agriculture
  • organic fertilizers
  • water reuse
  • resistome
  • horizontal gene transfer (HGT)
  • pathogens

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Authors:  Elisabet Marti and Meritxell Gros

Title: Tracing veterinary pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes in a livestock waste composting treatment plant

Abstract: Pharmaceuticals and antibiotics are widely used in animal husbandry to treat and prevent diseases. Thus, animal manure can be an important source of these pollutants into the environment once manure is applied as fertilizer in agricultural fields, which may also promote the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance. Composting is widely used for manure recycling, but its effect on the removal of emerging contaminants is still not clear.  In this study we investigated the occurrence and fate of 28 multiple-class veterinary pharmaceuticals and antibiotics (PhACs), and their corresponding antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), in an on-farm cattle manure treatment plant based on solid-liquid separation and composting of the solid fraction, in three different sampling seasons. Results showed an overall removal rate of 73% of PhACs in the first sampling event, while in the other seasons, the reduction was somewhat lower, around 40%.  High removal rates were observed for tylosin, oxytetracycline and enrofloxacin (>90%) during composting, which mainly occurred at the thermophilic phase after 30 days of treatment. Five ARGs (qnrS, tetW, ermB, sul1, blaKPC), the class 1 integron gene (intI1) and 16S rRNA gene were quantified in all the samples, being tetW, ermB and sul1 the most abundant. For all genes, except for sul1, some reduction was observed during composting. Finally, a risk assessment study was done to evaluate whether the remaining antibiotic concentrations in the untreated manure liquid fraction and final compost, used as fertilizers in agricultural fields, may pose a risk of resistance selection to soil ecosystems.

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