Occurrence of vancomycin-resistant and -susceptible Enterococcus spp. in reclaimed water used for spray irrigation

Stephanie Ann Carey, Rachel E.Rosenberg Goldstein, Shawn G. Gibbs, Emma Claye, Xin He, Amy R. Sapkota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Reclaiming municipal wastewater for agricultural, environmental, and industrial purposes is increasing in the United States to combat dwindling freshwater supplies. However, there is a lack of data regarding the microbial quality of reclaimed water. In particular, no previous studies have evaluated the occurrence of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) in reclaimed water used at spray irrigation sites in the United States. To address this knowledge gap, we investigated the occurrence, concentration, and antimicrobial resistance patterns of VRE and vancomycin-susceptible enterococci at three U.S. spray irrigation sites that use reclaimed water. We collected 48 reclaimed water samples from one Mid-Atlantic and two Midwest spray irrigation sites, as well as their respective wastewater treatment plants, in 2009 and 2010. Samples were analyzed for total enterococci and VRE using standard membrane filtration. Isolates were purified and then confirmed using biochemical tests and PCR. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing was conducted using the Sensititre® microbroth dilution system. Data were analyzed by two-sample proportion tests and one-way analysis of variance. We detected total enterococci and VRE in 71% (34/48) and 4% (2/48) of reclaimed water samples, respectively. Enterococcus faecalis was the most common species identified. At the Mid-Atlantic spray irrigation site, UV radiation decreased total enterococci to undetectable levels; however, subsequent storage in an open-air pond at this site resulted in increased concentrations of enterococci. E. faecalis isolates recovered from the Mid-Atlantic spray irrigation site expressed intrinsic resistance to quinupristin/dalfopristin; however, non-E. faecalis isolates expressed resistance to quinupristin/dalfopristin (52% of isolates), vancomycin (4%), tetracycline (13%), penicillin (4%) and ciprofloxacin (17%). Our findings show that VRE are present in low numbers in reclaimed water at point-of-use at the sampled spray irrigation sites; however, resistance to other antimicrobial classes is more prevalent, particularly among non-E. faecalis isolates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-355
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • Enterococci
  • Reclaimed water
  • Spray irrigation
  • Vancomycin-resistant enterococci
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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