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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 resistance 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, a Water Symposium planned by Dr Manan Sharma our collaborator in America was held in December 2017 at the International Convention Center (CTICC), Cape Town, South Africa (SA) as part of the 3rd International Conference on Global Food Security in Cape Town, South Africa. Both Dr Manan Sharma and Dr Erika du Plessis gave presentations at the Water Symposium (Attachment A). In addition Drs Erika du Plessis and German Villamizar held a breakfast meeting with Dr Manan Sharma from ARS, EMFSL, U.S., Prof Shirley Micallef and Dr Salina Praveen from the University of Maryland, U.S., Prof Kali Kniel from the University of Delaware, U.S. at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Cape Town from 08:00 to 09:45 on 6 December to establish further collaboration between the institutions.

A potential visit to their Research Institutions and sending a student to America for research purposes were also discussed. Afterwards Dr Sharma visited the team at the University of Pretoria, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences from 6-8 December 2017 to meet all the other researchers and students involved with the PEER project to discuss PEER project related research, progress and future activities. On December 7, 2017, a Water and Fresh Produce Safety Workshop was held in the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at UP. Both Dr Manan Sharma and Prof Lise Korsten gave presentations.

Contact was established with Prof Jannie Hugo the Head of the Family Medicine department (University of Pretoria) Prof Hugo and a meting held on As far as research activities are concerned two additional sampling sites in informal settlements in Pretoria, South Africa were identified after which bench marking field trips were conducted (21 Nov and December 2017) to sample water and fresh produce (when available) for microbiological analysis On the 5 December 2017 Lawrence Zulu (PhD student) the possibility of linking
sanitation, food safety and prevalence of infectious diseases at these sites using microbiological analysis, genomics and mining existing data on informal settlements in SA was discussed with Prof Hugo. 

During this quarter students from the University of Fort Hare started sampling and microbiological analysis. A total of 65 sample types were collected which included 8 rivers, 4 hospital wastewater, 2 abattoir wastewater, 2 municipal wastewater treatment plants final effluents, 6 animal faecal droppings, 15 animal rectal swabs, 6 agricultural soil and 7 vegetables types (cabbage, spinach, cucumber, lettuce, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower).

5-048 DuPlessis5-048 Korsten
Post doc student Dr. German Villamizar showing the PEER team the project labStudents and PEER team during the presentation

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. They have also planned a workshop between University of Pretoria and the University of Fort Hare to discuss methods and sites with a view to develop a detailed Gantt chart with deliverables and timelines.

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