Occurrence of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Urban Karst Groundwater Systems

Document Type


Publication Title



Antibiotic resistance is a global concern for human, animal, and environmental health. Many studies have identified wastewater treatment plants and surface waters as major reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and genes (ARGs). Yet their prevalence in urban karst groundwater systems remains largely unexplored. Considering the extent of karst groundwater use globally, and the growing urban areas in these regions, there is an urgent need to understand antibiotic resistance in karst systems to protect source water and human health. This study evaluated the prevalence of ARGs associated with resistance phenotypes at 10 urban karst features in Bowling Green, Kentucky weekly for 46 weeks. To expand the understanding of prevalence in urban karst, a spot sampling of 45 sites in the Tampa Bay Metropolitan area, Florida was also conducted. Specifically, this study considered tetracycline and extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBLs) producing, including third generation cephalosporin, resistant E. coli, and tetracycline and macrolide resistant Enterococcus spp. across the 443 Kentucky and 45 Florida samples. A consistent prevalence of clinically relevant and urban associated ARGs were found throughout the urban karst systems, regardless of varying urban development, karst geology, climate, or landuse. These findings indicate urban karst groundwater as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance, potentially threatening human health.

First Page




Publication Date