The Characterisation of Antimicrobial Resistance in Australian Wastewater

January 2020November 2023

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a looming threat to public health worldwide. AMR occurs when bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses evolve over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness, and death. Resistant bacteria can be found in clinical settings and throughout the natural environment. When antibiotics and antimicrobial compounds are consumed by humans or animals, they do not completely break down during metabolism and are excreted into the environment - whether that be via wastewater treatment plants, animal manure, aquaculture reservoirs, or water bodies.

The objective of this project is to characterise antibiotic resistance in wastewater using both analytical chemistry and microbiology techniques. In order to facilitate this, wastewater samples have been collected and preserved from over 100 wastewater treatment plants across Australia since 2016. Importantly, area specific demographics have also been collected for each of the wastewater catchments.

Conference Presentations

Clarke, L., Thomas, K., Gaze, W., Murray, A. & O’Brien, J. The characterisation of antimicrobial resistance in Australian wastewater, SETAC-AU Conference 2021, Melbourne, Australia, 30 August – 2 September 2021.

Clarke, L. Characterizing AMR across Australia, SETAC-AU Conference 2023,  poster presentation, Townsville, Australia, 7-11 August 2023.


Project members

Leah Clarke

PhD Candidate (UQ-Exeter) - Submitted

Prof Kevin Thomas

QAEHS Director
and Theme Leader, Environmental Health Toxicology

Dr Jake O’Brien

Senior Research Fellow