Does antifouling paint select for antibiotic resistance?

Flach CF, Pal C, Svensson CJ, Kristiansson E, Östman M, Bengtsson-Palme J, Tysklind M, Larsson DGJ

Sci. Total Environ. 590-591 (-) 461-468 [2017-07-15; online 2017-03-08]

There is concern that heavy metals and biocides contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance via co-selection. Most antifouling paints contain high amounts of such substances, which risks turning painted ship hulls into highly mobile refuges and breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The objectives of this study were to start investigate if heavy-metal based antifouling paints can pose a risk for co-selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and, if so, identify the underlying genetic basis. Plastic panels with one side painted with copper and zinc-containing antifouling paint were submerged in a Swedish marina and biofilms from both sides of the panels were harvested after 2.5-4weeks. DNA was isolated from the biofilms and subjected to metagenomic sequencing. Biofilm bacteria were cultured on marine agar supplemented with tetracycline, gentamicin, copper sulfate or zinc sulfate. Biofilm communities from painted surfaces displayed lower taxonomic diversity and enrichment of Gammaproteobacteria. Bacteria from these communities showed increased resistance to both heavy metals and tetracycline but not to gentamicin. Significantly higher abundance of metal and biocide resistance genes was observed, whereas mobile antibiotic resistance genes were not enriched in these communities. In contrast, we found an enrichment of chromosomal RND efflux system genes, including such with documented ability to confer decreased susceptibility to both antibiotics and biocides/heavy metals. This was paralleled by increased abundances of integron-associated integrase and ISCR transposase genes. The results show that the heavy metal-based antifouling paint exerts a strong selection pressure on marine bacterial communities and can co-select for certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria, likely by favoring species and strains carrying genes that provide cross-resistance. Although this does not indicate an immediate risk for promotion of mobile antibiotic resistance, the clear increase of genes involved in mobilizing DNA provides a foundation for increased opportunities for gene transfer in such communities, which might also involve yet unknown resistance mechanisms.

DDLS Fellow

Johan Bengtsson-Palme

PubMed 28284638

DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.01.213

Crossref 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.01.213

pii: S0048-9697(17)30230-9

Publications 9.5.0