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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: December 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 PI, Prof Lise Korsten and Dr Stacey Duvenage attended the 2019 IAFP European Symposium on Food Safety from 24-26 April in Nantes France. Prof Lise Korsten gave a presentation entitled “Clarity through Chaos: International Perspectives on Food Safety after Recent High-Profile Foodborne Outbreaks”, while Dr Stacey Duvenage presented a poster “Formal and informal spinach safety from farm to fork: a South African case study”.

Dr Erika du Plessis will present posters by toe studens from UP i.e. Ms Manana Dhlangalala (MSc student) and Ms Degracious Kgoale (PhD student) at the 2019 IAFP conference to be held in the United States from 21-24 July in Louisville, Kentucky. The workshop focused on “Antimicrobial resistance in agroecosystems” from 20-21 June 2019 at UP was attended by academics, students from the Department of Plant and Soil Science University of Pretoria (UP), The Veterinary Institute (UP), University of Fort Hare, Stellenbosch University and also representatives of governmental organisations including the Water Research Commission (WRC) the Department of Health in South Africa (DoH), the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD). The purpose was to create awareness of the results from hazard analysis and to discuss potential future risk mitigation strategies. This will be based on the scientific knowledge generated during the course of the project. Future stakeholder engagement workshops involving academics and policy makers are being planned with these institutions.

Phenotypic and genotypic characterization of antimicrobial resistant isolates from water, fresh produce samples as well as microbial biome analysis, thesis manuscript and publication writing are in progress at both UP and UFH.

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. Allard of the FDA is planned for October 2019.

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