Antimicrobial movement from agricultural areas to the environment: the missing link - a role for nuclear techniques

Antimicrobials (AM) play a critical role in the treatment of human and animal (aquatic and terrestrial) diseases, which has led to their widespread application and use. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, viruses and some parasites) to stop an antibiotic, such as an antimicrobial, antiviral or antimalarial, from working against them. Globally, about 700 000 deaths per year arise from resistant infections as a result of the fact that antimicrobial drugs have become less effective at killing resistant pathogens. Antimicrobial chemicals that are present in environmental compartments can trigger the development of AMR. These chemicals can also cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) to further spread antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) because they may have an evolutionary advantage over non-resistant bacteria. This paper will provide alternative screening methods useful for environmental samples and surveillance approaches in planning such screening efforts. Based on case studies, this paper aims to summarize the current understanding of the occurrence of ARG in the environment, and the antimicrobial movement from agricultural areas to the environment.