The overall objective for this project is to explore antibiotic resistance in Australia through wastewater analysis to determine potential chemical and sociodemographic drivers of antibiotic resistance. To facilitate this, wastewater samples have been collected and archived from over 150 wastewater treatment plants across Australia since 2016 in a national wastewater collection program implemented by QAEHS (also known as SewAus, described in (O’Brien et al., 2019)). Demographics have also been collected for each of the wastewater catchments using the 2016 Australian Census data and further samples and data will be obtained during the 2021 Australian Census. We hypothesize that in recent times there will be high levels of cleaning products (that induce AMR) and AMR genes in the samples due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To characterize chemicals in wastewater that cause AMR, mass spectrometry will be used on the samples. Next, a novel, high-throughput AMR assay will be used to expose wastewater-derived bacterial communities to the extracted chemical fractions of the wastewater samples to screen for resistance (Murray et al., 2020).

In order to characterize the microbial community in these wastewater samples, whole genome sequencing will be performed on glycerol preserved samples archived from the 2022 SewAus collections. This data will present what resistance genes are prevalent across Australia.

Chemical and resistance data from this work can be assessed for correlation against socioeconomic and sociodemographic data to identify drivers of antimicrobial use and therefore AMR. While data collection is focused on Australia, such findings will have a large impact on further understanding the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance. To date, no studies have combined such a wealth of information to assess the prevalence of AMR across a country. The above-mentioned experiments will provide new information on the prevalence and drivers of AMR across Australia and address significant knowledge gaps in the literature.

Please note, this is a PhD Student Progress Review.