Raw wastewater irrigation for urban agriculture in three African cities increases the abundance of transferable antibiotic resistance genes in soil, including those encoding extended spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs)

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Colleges, School and Institutes


A study was conducted to investigate the impact of raw wastewater use for irrigation on dissemination of bacterial resistance in urban agriculture in African cities. The pollution of agricultural fields by selected antibiotic residues was assessed. The structure and functions of the soil microbial communities, presence of antibiotic resistance genes of human clinical importance and Enterobacteriaceae plasmid replicons were analysed using high throughput metagenomic sequencing. In irrigated fields, the richness of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla increased by 65% and 15.7%, respectively; functions allocated to microbial communities' adaptation and development increased by 3%. Abundance of antibiotic resistance genes of medical interest was 27% greater in irrigated fields. Extended spectrum β-lactamase genes identified in irrigated fields included blaCARB-3, blaOXA-347, blaOXA-5 and blaRm3. The presence of ARGs encoding resistance to amphenicols, β-lactams, and tetracyclines were associated with the higher concentrations of ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin and sulfamethoxazole in irrigated fields. Ten Enterobacteriaceae plasmid amplicon groups involved in the wide distribution of ARGs were identified in the fields. IncQ2, ColE, IncFIC, IncQ1, and IncFII were found in both farming systems; IncW and IncP1 in irrigated fields; and IncY, IncFIB and IncFIA in non-irrigated fields. In conclusion, raw wastewater irrigated soils in African cities could represent a vector for the spread of antibiotic resistance, thus threatening human and animal health. Consumers of products from these farms and farmers could be at risk of acquiring infections due to drug-resistant bacteria.


Original languageEnglish
Article number134201
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date3 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • wastewater irrigation, agricultural fields, Bacterial resistance, metagemonics, ESBLs, Africa