Genomics of IncP-1 antibiotic resistance plasmids isolated from wastewater treatment plants provides evidence for a widely accessible drug resistance gene pool


  • Editor: Rafael Giraldo

Correspondence: Eva M. Top, Department of Biological Sciences, Initiative for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies, University of Idaho, PO Box 443051, Moscow, ID 83844-3051, USA. Tel.: +1 208 885 5015; fax: +1 208 885 7905; e-mail:


The dramatic spread of antibiotic resistance is a crisis in the treatment of infectious diseases that affect humans. Several studies suggest that wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) are reservoirs for diverse mobile antibiotic resistance elements. This review summarizes findings derived from genomic analysis of IncP-1 resistance plasmids isolated from WWTP bacteria. Plasmids that belong to the IncP-1 group are self-transmissible, and transfer to and replicate in a wide range of hosts. Their backbone functions are described with respect to their impact on vegetative replication, stable maintenance and inheritance, mobility and plasmid control. Accessory genetic modules, mainly representing mobile genetic elements, are integrated in-between functional plasmid backbone modules. These elements carry determinants conferring resistance to nearly all clinically relevant antimicrobial drug classes, to heavy metals, and quaternary ammonium compounds used as disinfectants. All plasmids analysed here contain integrons that potentially facilitate integration, exchange and dissemination of resistance gene cassettes. Comparative genomics of accessory modules located on plasmids from WWTP and corresponding modules previously identified in other bacterial genomes revealed that animal, human and plant pathogens and other bacteria isolated from different habitats share a common pool of resistance determinants.