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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Characterizing and tracking of antimicrobial resistance in the water-plant-food public health interface: an emerging water, sanitation and hygiene issue

PI: Liza Korsten (, University of Pretoria
U.S. Partner: Manan Sharma, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory
Project Dates: January 2016 - November 2019

Project Overview:

The main aim of this research project is to determine the prevalence of, characterize, and track antimicrobial resistance (AR) in the water-plant-food-public health interface. This will contribute to addressing the knowledge gap on the contribution of agro-ecosystems to the dissemination of AR resistance in the environment in South Africa. Access to safe potable water is a basic human right. The microbiological quality of water sources, especially surface water, are seriously compromised by municipal wastewater discharge, sewage from informal settlements with inadequate sanitation, and wastes from animal husbandry, industrial companies, hospitals, and the mining sector. With strategic resources being polluted, consumers face increased risks with potential negative effects on human health, the environment, and food security. Following consultation with key stakeholders, the research team will select study sites where the risk for fecal bacterial contamination is high due to anthropogenic activities.

 They will compare levels of antimicrobial re
5-048 DuPlessis 
Post doc student Dr. German Villamizar showing the PEER team the project lab 
sistance prevalence in rural versus urban settings and organic farming versus intensive commercial farming, which should contribute towards an improved understanding of the role of agricultural practices on driving AR development in the agricultural ecosystem.

Hazard analysis coupled with pollution source tracking within a specific area will facilitate the assessment of the potential impact on public health.

The impact of this research should also provide water management services, government officials, and farmers with a knowledge base of “hotspots” where irrigation water quality has been severely compromised in South Africa. Knowledge generated during the course of the project should ultimately aid in the development of a Water and Health strategy in South Africa.

Summary of Recent Events

In this quarter, the current PEER project US collaborator Dr Manan Sharma from ARS, EMFSL, Belltssville, Maryland U.S., Prof Shirley Micallef from the University of Maryland, U.S., Prof Kali Kniel from the University of Delaware, U.S, Prof Lise Korsten and Dr Erika du Plessis have submitted two applications for workshops/symposium sessions entitled 1) ”Movers and Shakers: Occurrence, Dissemination and Transfer of Enteric Bacteria in Agricultural and Food Distribution Environments” and 2) ‘Clarity through Chaos: International Perspectives on Food Safety after Recent High-Profile Foodborne Outbreaks’ to the organising committee of the 2019 IAFP European Symposium on Food Safety.

The second workshop /symposium session has been accepted by the organizing committee. Prof Lise Korsten and Dr Stacey Duvenage will be attending and presenting at the conference. Two of our students whose projects are focused on PEER project goals Ms Manana Dhlangalala and Ms Degracious Kgoale are also preparing abstracts for the 2019 IAFP to be held in the United States from 21-24 July in Louisville, Kentucky. A list of isolates from water and fresh vegetable supply chains were made and sent to Dr Marc Allard for  sequencing purposes as part of the international collaboration with the FDA, US.

In the  next three months, the PI and her team will continue carrying out active sampling and microbiological analysis of water and fresh produce samples along the entire supply chain from the farm to the retailer by all students. A second GenomeTrakr workshop in collaboration with Dr Marc Allard from the Food and Drug Administration in the US is planned for October 2019.

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