Novel method for rapid assessment of antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli isolates from environmental waters by use of a modified chromogenic agar
We validated a novel method for screening Escherichia coli resistance to antibiotics in environmental samples using modified Difco MI agar (Becton Dickinson) impregnated with selected antibiotics (tetracycline, ampicillin, cephalexin, and sulfamethoxazole), termed MI-R. This method combines an existing rapid assessment technique for E. coli enumeration with clinical reference data for breakpoint analysis of antibiotic resistance and was developed to address issues encountered when clinical methods are used with environmental samples. Initial trials conducted using strains of E. coli with resistance to the selected antibiotics showed that this method was reproducible and accurate with respect to antibiotic resistance. Trials using wastewater effluent demonstrated the precision of the method, and the levels of resistance found in effluent were directly comparable to the levels of antibiotic resistance determined using the more traditional CLSI (formerly NCCLS) disk susceptibility test. All wastewater isolates growing on MI-R plates were confirmed to be resistant using the CLSI disk susceptibility test. Bacterial resistance to ampicillin (38% +/- 4% overall), sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline (21% +/- 3% overall), and ciprofloxacin (6% +/- 1%) were found in wastewater effluent. A successful trial was also conducted with water collected from the Brisbane River, Australia. The levels of antibiotic resistance in E. coli ranged from 0 to 47% for ampicillin, from 0 to 24% for tetracycline, from 0 to 63% for sulfamethoxazole, and from 0 to 1% for ciprofloxacin, with the highest incidence of resistance associated with wastewater treatment plant discharges. This method has great potential for rapid and representative assessment of antibiotic resistance in E. coli and could allow increased sample analysis, resulting in greater confidence in spatial analysis in environmental studies.