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  1. Elkins, Christopher A. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) bear the largest mortality burden of antibiotic-resistant infections. Small-scale animal production and free-roaming domestic animals are common in many LMICs, yet data on zoonotic exchange of gut bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in low-income communities are sparse. Differences between rural and urban communities with regard to population density, antibiotic use, and cohabitation with animals likely influence the frequency of transmission of gut bacterial communities and ARGs between humans and animals. Here, we determined the similarity in gut microbiomes, using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, and resistomes, using long-read metagenomics, between humans, chickens, and goats in a rural community compared to an urban community in Bangladesh. Gut microbiomes were more similar between humans and chickens in the rural (where cohabitation is more common) than the urban community, but there was no difference for humans and goats in the rural versus the urban community. Human and goat resistomes were more similar in the urban community, and ARG abundance was higher in urban animals than rural animals. We identified substantial overlap of ARG alleles in humans and animals in both settings. Humans and chickens had more overlapping ARG alleles than humans and goats. All fecal hostsmore »from the urban community and rural humans carried ARGs on chromosomal contigs classified as potentially pathogenic bacteria, including Escherichia coli , Campylobacter jejuni , Clostridioides difficile , and Klebsiella pneumoniae . These findings provide insight into the breadth of ARGs circulating within human and animal populations in a rural compared to urban community in Bangladesh. IMPORTANCE While the development of antibiotic resistance in animal gut microbiomes and subsequent transmission to humans has been demonstrated in intensive farming environments and high-income countries, evidence of zoonotic exchange of antibiotic resistance in LMIC communities is lacking. This research provides genomic evidence of overlap of antibiotic resistance genes between humans and animals, especially in urban communities, and highlights chickens as important reservoirs of antibiotic resistance. Chicken and human gut microbiomes were more similar in rural Bangladesh, where cohabitation is more common. Incorporation of long-read metagenomics enabled characterization of bacterial hosts of resistance genes, which has not been possible in previous culture-independent studies using only short-read sequencing. These findings highlight the importance of developing strategies for combatting antibiotic resistance that account for chickens being reservoirs of ARGs in community environments, especially in urban areas.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 26, 2023
  2. Elkins, Christopher A. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Fomites can represent a reservoir for pathogens, which may be subsequently transferred from surfaces to skin. In this study, we aim to understand how different factors (including virus type, surface type, time since last hand wash, and direction of transfer) affect virus transfer rates, defined as the fraction of virus transferred, between fingerpads and fomites. To determine this, 360 transfer events were performed with 20 volunteers using Phi6 (a surrogate for enveloped viruses), MS2 (a surrogate for nonenveloped viruses), and three clean surfaces (stainless steel, painted wood, and plastic). Considering all transfer events (all surfaces and both transfer directions combined), the mean transfer rates of Phi6 and MS2 were 0.17 and 0.26, respectively. Transfer of MS2 was significantly higher than that of Phi6 ( P  < 0.05). Surface type was a significant factor that affected the transfer rate of Phi6: Phi6 is more easily transferred to and from stainless steel and plastic than to and from painted wood. Direction of transfer was a significant factor affecting MS2 transfer rates: MS2 is more easily transferred from surfaces to fingerpads than from fingerpads to surfaces. Data from these virus transfer events, and subsequent transfer rate distributions, provide information that can be usedmore »to refine quantitative microbial risk assessments. This study provides a large-scale data set of transfer events with a surrogate for enveloped viruses, which extends the reach of the study to the role of fomites in the transmission of human enveloped viruses like influenza and SARS-CoV-2. IMPORTANCE This study created a large-scale data set for the transfer of enveloped viruses between skin and surfaces. The data set produced by this study provides information on modeling the distribution of enveloped and nonenveloped virus transfer rates, which can aid in the implementation of risk assessment models in the future. Additionally, enveloped and nonenveloped viruses were applied to experimental surfaces in an equivalent matrix to avoid matrix effects, so results between different viral species can be directly compared without confounding effects of different matrices. Our results indicating how virus type, surface type, time since last hand wash, and direction of transfer affect virus transfer rates can be used in decision-making processes to lower the risk of viral infection from transmission through fomites.« less
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  4. Beach aquifers, located in the subsurface of sandy beaches, are unique ecosystems with steep chemical and physical gradients resulting from the mixing of terrestrial fresh groundwater and saline groundwater from the sea. While work has rapidly progressed to understand the physics and chemistry in this environment, much less is known about the microorganisms present despite the fact that they are responsible for vital biogeochemical processes. This paper presents a review of the current state of knowledge of microbes within beach aquifers and the mechanisms that control the beach aquifer microbiome. We review literature describing the distribution and diversity of microorganisms in the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of beach aquifers, and identify just 12 papers. We highlight knowledge gaps, as well as future research directions: The understanding of beach aquifer microorganisms is informed primarily by 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences. Metagenomics and metatranscriptomics have not yet been applied but are promising approaches for elucidating key metabolic and ecological roles of microbes in this environment. Additionally, variability in field sampling and analytical methods restrict comparison of data across studies and geographic locations. Further, documented evidence on the migration of microbes within the beach aquifer is limited. Taking into account the physical transport ofmore »microbes through sand by flowing groundwater may be critical for understanding the structure and dynamics of microbial communities. Quantitative measurements of rates of elemental cycling in the context of microbial diversity need further investigation, in order to understand the roles of microbes in mediating biogeochemical fluxes from the beach aquifer to the coastal ocean. Lastly, understanding the current state of beach aquifers in regulating carbon stocks is critical to foster a better understanding of the contribution of the beach aquifer microbiome to global climate models.« less
  5. Wastewater-based epidemiology has gained attention throughout the world for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater to supplement clinical testing. Raw wastewater consists of small particles, or solids, suspended in liquid. Methods have been developed to measure SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the liquid and the solid fraction of wastewater, with some studies reporting higher concentrations in the solid fraction. To investigate this relationship further, six laboratories collaborated to conduct a study across five publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) where both primary settled solids obtained from primary clarifiers and raw wastewater influent samples were collected and quantified for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Settled solids and influent samples were processed by participating laboratories using their respective methods and retrospectively paired based on date of collection. SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations, on a mass equivalent basis, were higher in settled solids than in influent by approximately three orders of magnitude. Concentrations in matched settled solids and influent were positively and significantly correlated at all five POTWs. RNA concentrations in both settled solids and influent were correlated to COVID-19 incidence rates in the sewersheds and thus representative of disease occurrence; the settled solids methods appeared to produce a comparable relationship between SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentration measurements and incidence rates across allmore »POTWs. Settled solids and influent methods showed comparable sensitivity, N gene detection frequency, and calculated empirical incidence rate lower limits. Analysis of settled solids for SARS-CoV-2 RNA has the advantage of using less sample volume to achieve similar sensitivity to influent methods.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 15, 2023
  6. null (Ed.)
  7. Among the biggest threats to coastal water quality are freshwater discharges. It is difficult to predict the spatial extent of freshwater plumes at marine beaches because processes governing mass transport in the surf zone are complex. Participatory science approaches could facilitate collecting shoreline data, although volunteer sampling campaigns can be challenged by data quality and volunteer retention. The goals of this study were to (1) work with volunteers to estimate safe swimming distances at beaches that receive polluted discharges, and (2) test whether informational feedback to volunteers increased retention. Forty-six volunteers participated over 12 weeks in 2019 by collecting 1452 salinity measurements at beaches near the mouths of two Central California freshwater discharges and completing participation surveys. These measurements resulted in 145 distinct estimates of safe swimming distances ( D 90 ), spanning a range of environmental conditions during rainy and dry periods. Median D 90 s were 150 and 100 m at San Pedro Creek south and north, and 490 and 330 m at San Lorenzo River west and east, respectively. D 90 was significantly associated with adjacent freshwater discharge rate at both discharges and tide level at one discharge. On average, the odds of volunteers conducting sampling decreasedmore »by 4% (95% CI: 1%, 7%) with each successive week. A randomized intervention providing repeated data feedback via email to volunteers did not affect their retention in the study.« less