Can heavy metal pollution induce bacterial resistance to heavy metals and antibiotics in soils from an ancient land-mine?

Zhong, Q.; Cruz-Paredes, C.; Zhang, S.; Rousk, J.

Journal of Hazardous Materials 411: 124962


ISSN/ISBN: 1873-3336
PMID: 33440279
DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.124962
Accession: 071389967

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Microbial resistance to antibiotics is a growing challenge to human health. Recent evidence has indicated that antibiotic resistance can be co-selected for by exposure to heavy metals in agricultural soils. It remains unknown if this is a concern in other environments contaminated by metals. We here investigated soil microbial activities, composition and tolerance to heavy metals and antibiotics in a mining soil survey. We found that microbial respiration, growth, and biomass were affected by available metal concentrations. Most of the variation in microbial PLFA composition was explained by differences in heavy metal and pH. Additionally, pollution-induced bacterial community tolerance to toxicants including Cu, Pb, Zn, tetracycline and vancomycin was determined. Although only bacterial tolerance to Pb increased with higher levels of metals, the links between bacterial metal tolerance and soil metal concentrations were clear when considered together with previously published reports, suggesting that bacterial metal tolerance were universally elevated in the surveyed soils. The induced levels of heavy metal tolerance coincided with elevated levels of tolerance to vancomycin, but not to tetracycline. Our study showed that heavy metals can co-select for resistance to clinically important antibiotics also in ecosystems without manure input or antibiotic pollution.