2007 Spring Seed Funding Competition : Project Profile
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Monitoring of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in the Greater Toronto Area Beaches

Lead Investigator:

Lesley A. Warren, School of Geography & Earth Sciences


  • Christian Baron, Department of Biology
  • Padman Jayaratne, Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine

The principal aim of this novel collaborative project is to develop early monitoring systems for the occurrence of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) in the environment. The antibiotic resistance genes carried by ARB spread from the general community into disease-susceptible populations and ultimately into hospitals where they complicate the treatment of infectious diseases. The greater Toronto area (GTA; i.e. Hamilton to Whitby) services over 5 million people who rely on Lake Ontario for drinking water as well as recreation. Water quality issues associated with urban (i.e. combined sewer outfalls, CSO), agricultural and industrial discharges occur in GTA associated aquatic environments. However, their impacts on the occurrence of ARB or the role of specific aquatic compartments that may be important repositories for ARB, have not been studied to date in the GTA. The larger research objectives for this new research team are to: (1) evaluate the magnitude of ARB occurrence in GTA aquatic environments receiving CSO, agricultural and industrial discharges and (2) identify the key aquatic ARB reservoirs. Research outcomes will directly inform the understanding of environmental ARB relevant to clinical infectious diseases through identification of important ARB environmental repositories, sources and of spatial/temporal windows of higher human exposure risks. We intend to investigate GTA Lake Ontario sites including beaches, tributary rivers draining agricultural - farming areas, or receiving CSO or industrial discharges. The Collaborations for Health seed funds will support this research initiative through the collection and analyses of one set of suspended floc, beach sand and water samples in conjunction with environmental survey information from Sunnyside Beach in Toronto as proof-of-principle data for a larger project proposal. Sediment and water trace metal geochemistry (Warren lab) will be linked to resistance gene occurrence in floc and surficial bed sediment samples by a combination of PCR identification of known resistance genes and plasmid identification through established laboratory protocols in the Baron and Jayaratne labs.