ANTIVERSA: Biodiversity as an ecological barrier to the spread of clinically relevant antibiotic resistance in the environment.


Antibiotic resistance can be spread via environmental sources, such as soils, surface waters or wastewater, and reintroduced into human or animal pathogenic bacteria via the food and feed chain. This spread of antibiotic resistance across ecosystem boundaries should be prevented or massively reduced. In the present project, we will examine whether a "healthy" natural environment with a high diversity of different bacterial and fungal species, i.e. a high biodiversity, represents a barrier to the spread of antibiotic resistance. Ecosystems under high pressure, such as intensively used agricultural areas, which have low biodiversity, will be compared in this respect with natural ecosystems and high biodiversity, such as those found in forest soils or nature reserves, for their resistance to the introduction, spread and amplification of antibiotic resistance.

Project description

Microorganisms that have developed resistance to antimicrobially active substances are becoming increasingly common. Especially in surface waters or soils, an ever-increasing contamination with organisms showing antimicrobial resistance can be observed. These often enter the environment via wastewater or agricultural facilities. Since antimicrobial resistance poses a major threat to human health, it is important to study its spread. The goal of the ANTIVERSA project is to find out whether ecosystems with higher biodiversity can prevent or mitigate the spread of resistance. Samples from numerous sites with different biodiversity will be studied and compared across Europe. This will determine whether there are links between biodiversity and antibiotic resistance.

Interim results

Four types of soil samples with and without human influence (agroecosystem, fields fertilized with pig manure or compost) and of high and low microbial biodiversity were analyzed: Two comparison soil samples were taken from a deciduous forest in the Danube Floodplain National Park and a coniferous forest in the Gutenstein Alps. Hundreds of so-called microcosms were built up in the laboratory using a few grams from each of the samples. An enterococcus strain with an antibiotic resistance gene was applied to these. Over a period of eight months, it was recorded how long the enterococci survived in the microcosm and what happened to the resistance gene. The preliminary analysis of the data after five months of observation shows: A high bacterial biodiversity reduces the spread of the resistance gene.

Benefit of the project

Antimicrobial resistance is extremely dangerous and poses a major threat to human and animal health. More and more soils and waters can serve as a source of antibiotic resistance or be contaminated by with resistance. The ANTIVERSA project is therefore of great importance as it explores whether ecosystems with higher biodiversity provide a stronger barrier to antibiotic resistance and its spread. Initial results emphasize their great importance, as they can indeed function as a barrier to the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Project details

Project acronym: ANTIVERSA

Project management: Technical University of Dresden

Project management AGES: Dr. Markus Wögerbauer

Project partners: National University of Ireland, Université de Lorraine, Vienna University of Technology, EAWAG Department of Surface Waters, Institute of Biological Research Cluj, University of Warsaw, Stadtentwässerung Dresden.

Funding: The project runs within the framework of BiodivERsA+ and is funded by: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany, FKZ 01LC1904A), Environmental Protection Agency (Ireland), Agence Nationale de la Recherche (France), Fonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (Austria), Swiss National Science Foundation (Switzerland), Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation (Romania), National Science Centre (Poland), Stadtentwässerung Dresden (Germany) and the European Commission Horizon 2020 program.

Project duration: 03/2020 to 08/2023

More information

Project website

Last updated: 07.03.2023

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