Do environmental quality criteria protect against the spread of antibiotic resistance?

Do environmental quality criteria protect against the spread of antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotics in the environment can potentially lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to these antibiotics and thus endanger public health. Like with toxic effects, there also is a critical concentration for the selection pressure on environmental bacteria (minimum selective concentrations, MSC), above which the antibiotics can lead to the increased occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, at least in the lab. This project investigates whether the ecotoxicologically based quality criteria for antibiotics, which take into account the toxicity to organisms in the environment, are low enough to also protect against the development of antibiotic resistance.

To answer this question, minimum selective concentrations (MSC) from the literature are compared with ecotoxicologically based quality criteria (QC) for surface waters derived by the Ecotox Centre. The aim is to determine whether the ecotoxicological threshold values for azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, clarithromycin, erythromycin, sulfamethoxazole, sulfamethazine and trimethoprim are also protective with regard to antibiotic resistance formation or whether an adjustment of the QC would possibly be useful. However, the consideration of antibiotic resistance in the derivation of QC represents an extension of the protection goals of ecotoxicological risk assessment, because the development of antibiotic resistance is not a problem for environmental organisms but for human health.


Ferrari, G., Junghans, M., Korkaric, M., Werner, I. (2019) Antibiotikaresistenzbildung in der Umwelt. Herleitung von UQK für Antibiotika unter Berücksichtung von Resistenzbildung. Aqua & Gas 6, 52-58

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Dr. Marion Junghans
Dr. Marion Junghans Send mail Tel. +41 58 765 5401