Fate of antibiotic resistance genes in two Arctic tundra wetlands impacted by municipal wastewater

Jennifer L. Hayward, Amy J. Jackson, Christopher K. Yost, Lisbeth Truelstrup Hansen, Rob C. Jamieson*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In the Canadian Arctic, it is common practice to discharge municipal wastewater into tundra wetlands. Antibiotic resistant bacteria and the antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) they contain can be present in municipal wastewater and there is a scarcity of knowledge on ARGs in wastewater in Arctic environments. This study was initiated on the fate of ARGs in tundra wetland ecosystems impacted by anthropogenic wastewater sources in Arctic communities. In the summer season of 2016, two wetlands were studied in the Inuit communities of Sanikiluaq and Naujaat in Nunavut, Canada. Genomic DNA was extracted from both soil and water during the spring freshet and late summer in the wetlands, and a suite of nine clinically relevant ARGs (sul1, sul2, mecA, vanA, qnrS, ermB, tetO, blaTEM, blaCTX-M), and an integron gene (int1) were analyzed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Hydrological and water quality measurements were conducted in conjunction with the microbiological sampling. Gene targets were consistently present in the wastewater, and throughout both wetlands, except for vanA and mecA. Concentrations of ARGs were greater during the spring freshet, due to short hydraulic retention times (<2 days), which coincided with decreased treatment performance. The environmental resistome in un-impacted wetlands had above detection limit concentrations of int1, sul1, sul2, blaCTX-M in water in Naujaat, and sul1, qnrS and tetO in soil in Sanikiluaq. First-order rate constants were widely variable and specific to the gene target. ARGs were present in concentrations elevated above baseline reference sites in tundra wetlands influenced by municipal wastewater, and hydrological conditions had a large impact on their spatial distribution and levels.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Pages (from-to)1415-1428
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • ARG
  • Tundra wetland hydrology
  • qPCR
  • Cold climate
  • Arctic
  • Antimicrobial resistance


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