Antibiotic resistance in water and wastewater environments

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Sponsoring College, Department, School or Center: 
SEBE / Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering
Faculty Name: 
Kerry Hamilton
Preferred Skills or Majors: 

Environmental engineering, data science, systematic literature review and meta-analysis, public health

Closing Date: 
March 1, 2020
Location or Campus: 
Tempe Biodesign B240
Hours Per Week: 

Desired Academic Year: 
Project Description: 

Managing the spread of antibiotic resistance is one of today’s greatest public health challenges. Environmental aspects contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance have begun to receive serious attention, yet a consensus regarding how to assess such risks has not been reached, particularly as they pertain to water systems. Concurrently, a growing body of monitoring data on the occurrence of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in wastewater, recycled water, and drinking water is becoming available, but it is unclear how to interpret and act upon such data, with the need to harmonize with other water quality objectives, water demands and other practical constraints. Advancing frameworks for better characterizing the risks associated with ARB and ARGs in water systems and the potential to contribute to illness and failure of antibiotic treatments in humans is needed in order to better support decision-making, inform monitoring strategies, and identify potential mitigation options and endpoints. Guidance is also needed to support water utilities in managing and communicating potential risks associated with antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The overarching objective of the proposed project is to develop and disseminate a risk assessment framework for water-based sources of AMR that is strongly grounded in the state-of-the science and vetted by academic experts and relevant water professionals. Specifically, the tasks associated with this project will result in a comprehensive, systematic synthesis and meta-analysis of literature related to ARB/ARG occurrence, removal by various treatments, and applicable risk assessment frameworks that will form the basis of a publicly-available, ready-to-use AMR database. Throughout, we will seek to unify the “One Water” and “One Health” paradigms to comprehensively and systematically inform promising risk management options for the water industry. Extensive review of the risk framework and identification of high priority risk scenarios will be conducted through engagement with AMR experts and water utilities, while drawing from lessons learned from similar efforts in the EU and elsewhere internationally. To demonstrate the use of the framework and literature synthesis in practice, multiple qualitative and quantitative risk assessment approaches will be compared in terms of strengths, weaknesses, and applicability for various scenarios through a case study aimed at assessing the impacts of potential management strategies for two high-priority pathogens often exhibiting AMR, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli. Surveys, workshops, and focus-groups engaging domain-area experts, water utilities, and key water professionals will serve to provide feedback in the development of the risk framework and vet the final product in terms of applicability to wastewater, water reuse, and drinking water management. The result of this effort will provide information to navigate complex water management decisions, taking into account concerns about AMR risk. Additionally, it will highlight the most pertinent data gaps for advancing the state of the science and defining the most critical AMR knowledge gaps and research needs for the water industry. The overall effort will yield several tangible products of value to water utilities and professionals in managing AMR risk, including a final technical report compiling a comprehensive literature review, case study, risk framework, and basic guidance on AMR risk management and risk communication, along with an accessible database to inform future risk assessment efforts.

Application Instructions and Contact Info: 

Please send resume, paragraph describing research interests, and contact information for one reference to Professor Kerry Hamilton (