Antibiotic Resistance from waste water treatment facilities in Swiss streams and rivers


Antibiotic-resistant bacteria pass into watercourses when waste water is discharged. We are investigating how this resistance behaves and where humans come into contact with it.

Portrait / project description (ongoing research project)

Normal waste water treatment facilities do not remove all resistant bacteria from waste water. We are looking at which bacteria, bearing which types of resistance, pass into Swiss streams and rivers in this way and where they can subsequently be found. We are paying special attention to bacteria in aquatic animals, sediments and so-called biofilms: layers of bacteria on the surface of water and soil. We are also recording the distances over which resistance is transported and how robust it is. This information will enable us to develop models to predict the resistance burden of flowing waterways along their courses. The intention is to identify places in which humans could come into contact with resistance from waste water treatment facilities.


Resistant bacteria that pass into streams and rivers in treated waste water represent a risk for humans. In order to assess this risk we need to understand how antibiotic resistance spreads in bodies of flowing water and how stable it is in this environment.


We want to understand how antibiotic resistance spreads in watercourses and develop models to show where exactly humans might come into contact with this resistance.


Our data and models provide a basis for policy decisions and practical actions that will improve our ability to control the spread of antibiotic resistance through flowing waterways.

Original title

Swiss River Resistome – identity, fate, and exposure

Project leader

Dr. Helmut Bürgmann, Eawag, Kastanienbaum



Further information on this content



Dr. Helmut Bürgmann Eawag Seestrasse 79 6047 Kastanienbaum +41 58 765 21 65