Discovery of sulfonamide resistance genes in deep groundwater below Patna, India

George Wilson, Mariel Perez-Zabaleta, Isaac Owusu-Agyeman, Arun Kumar, Ashok Ghosh, David Polya, Daren C Gooddy, Zeynep Cetecioglu, Laura Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global usage of pharmaceuticals has led to the proliferation of bacteria that are resistant to antimicrobial treatments, creating a substantial public health challenge. Here, we investigate the emergence of sulfonamide resistance genes in groundwater and surface water in Patna, a rapidly developing city in Bihar, India. We report the first quantification of three sulfonamide resistance genes (sulI, sulII and sulIII) in groundwater (12–107 m) in India. The mean relative abundance of gene copies was found to be sulI (2.4 x 10-2 copies / 16S rRNA gene) > sulII (5.4 x 10-3 copies / 16S rRNA gene) > sulIII (2.4 x 10-3 copies / 16S rRNA gene) in groundwater (n = 15) and surface water (n = 3). A comparison between antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes and wastewater indicators, particularly tryptophan:fulvic-like fluorescence, suggests that wastewater was associated with AMR gene prevalence. Urban drainage channels, containing hospital and domestic wastes, are likely a substantial source of antimicrobial resistance in groundwater and surface water, including the Ganges (Ganga) River. This study is a reference point for decision-makers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance because it quantifies and determines potential sources of AMR genes in Indian groundwater.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 May 2024


  • Antimicrobial resistance genes
  • sulfonamides
  • water contamination
  • rapidly developing city
  • wastewater


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