Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is recognized as one of the greatest threats to animal and human health and it leads to elevated costs for the individual and society. Urban settlements and wastewater treatment have a central role in the AMR occurrence in the environment. However, the information about the AMR abundance and diversity in Svalbard, and the Arctic in general, is scarce. Still much remains unknown concerning how antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB), antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) and antibiotics (ATB) disperse in recipient aquatic environments, especially the arctic region. Even less is known about how occurrence and levels are affected by environmental factors such as temperature, and the type and extent of the receiving water body. Besides dispersal and transfer through water, the AMR is potentially transferred to remote areas by wildlife, e.g., birds which can travel great distances. However, there are insufficient knowledge of how much the birds influence carriage of ARB and ARG and transfer of the AMR to more pristine waters such as Svalbard.
To address these gaps, the project aims to provide insight into i) the dispersal of ARB, ARG and ATB in arctic surface waters and ii) role of aquatic birds in dispersal of ARB and ARG. Project focuses on dispersal and dynamics of AMR in marine and freshwater environments in less human-impacted areas (e.g. Dicksonfjorden) and in areas affected by urban wastewater discharges (e.g., Adventfjorden). During 3 sampling campaigns, marine water, freshwater and Longyearbyen wastewater samples will be collected. In addition, opportunistic collection of gull feces samples is planned around Longyearbyean.
The project will contribute to mapping of the AMR in the arctic by providing information about the current levels of the AMR in Svalbard. It will also create baseline dataset for the future projects regarding the AMR levels in the locations with low anthropogenic impact.