USF researchers find dangerous bacteria in wastewater effluent of sewer spill
Bacteria equipped with genes that can transfer antibiotic resistance adds to a sewage spill's public health threat
University of South Florida researchers investigating the aftermath of a September, 2014 sewer line break in St. Petersburg, Florida, have found dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the untreated wastewater that gushed into neighborhoods and into Boca Ciega Bay at a rate of 250 to 500 gallons per minute.
After a sewer line break, a strain of bacteria found in wastewater tested resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic considered to be a 'last resort' treatment for serious infections that do not respond to other antibiotics. Researchers found that the vancomycin-resistant bacteria contains a gene capable of transferring vancomycin resistance to other strains of bacteria. Aging sewer infrastructure and increases in stormwater flooding with extreme rain events increases the likelihood of such spills.