Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in the Environment as Bio-Indicators of Pollution

James R. Paulson1, *, Ibrahim Y. Mahmoud2, Salma K. Al-Musharafi3, Saif N. Al-Bahry4
1 Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI 54901, USA
2 Department of Biological Sciences and Chemistry, University of Nizwa, Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman
3 Department of Applied Biotechnology, Sur College of Applied Sciences, Sur, Sultanate of Oman
4 Department of Biology, College of Science, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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© Paulson et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Oshkosh, 800 Algoma Blvd, Oshkosh, WI 54901, USA; Tel: +1-920-424-7100; Fax: +1-920-424-2042; E-mail:


Antibiotic resistant and multiple-antibiotic resistant bacteria (MARB) have become increasingly widespread, primarily due to overuse of antibiotics in clinical therapeutics and in growth promotion for livestock. This undermines the usefulness of the drugs and presents a serious problem for human health. Compounding the problem, resistance determinants can spread between different bacteria via transfer of genetic material, so that the digestive tracts of farm animals, for example, have become breeding grounds for MARB. Antibiotics and resistant bacteria enter the environment in both treated and untreated sewage, via wastewater streams from hospitals and pharmaceutical plants, and through agricultural runoff from feedlots and fields fertilized with manure. This has led to contamination of groundwater, lakes, rivers and coastal sea water, and high levels of MARB in wildlife which indicates pollution of these habitats. Here we propose that the level of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in wildlife, for example sea turtles and fish, could be used as a bioindicator to monitor pollution and to evaluate the success of efforts to curtail it.

Keywords: Antibiotic resistance, Bioindicators, Ocean pollution, Sea turtles, Water pollution.