Impact of flooding on urban soils: Changes in antibiotic resistance and bacterial community after Hurricane Harvey. Academic Article uri icon


  • Major perturbations in soil and water quality are factors that can negatively impact human health. In soil environments of urban areas, changes in antibiotic-resistance profiles may represent an increased risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria via oral, dermal, or inhalation routes. We studied the perturbation of antibiotic-resistance profiles and microbial communities in soils following a major flooding event in Houston, Texas, caused by Hurricane Harvey. The main objective of this study was to examine the presence of targeted antibiotic-resistance genes and changes in the diversity of microbial communities in soils a short time (3-5months) and a long time (18months) after the catastrophic flooding event. Using polymerase chain reaction, we surveyed fourteen antibiotic-resistance elements: intI1, intI2, sul1, sul2, tet(A) to (E), tet(M), tet(O), tet(W), tet(X), and blaCMY-2. The number of antibiotic-resistance genes detected were higher in short-time samples compared to samples taken a long time after flooding. From all the genes surveyed, only tet(E), blaCMY-2, and intI1 were prevalent in short-time samples but not observed in long-time samples; thus, we propose these genes as indicators of exogenous antibiotic resistance in the soils. Sequencing of the V3-V4 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene was used to find that flooding may have affected bacterial community diversity, enhanced differences among bacterial lineages profiles, and affected the relative abundance of Actinobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Gemmatimonadetes. A major conclusion of this study is that antibiotic resistance profiles of soil bacteria are impacted by urban flooding events such that they may pose an enhanced risk of exposure for up to three to five months following the hurricane. The occurrence of targeted antibiotic-resistance elements decreased eighteen months after the hurricane indicating a reduction of the risk of exposure long time after Harvey.

published proceedings

  • Sci Total Environ

altmetric score

  • 8.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Prez-Valdespino, A., Pircher, R., Prez-Domnguez, C. Y., & Mendoza-Sanchez, I.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Pérez-Valdespino, Abigail||Pircher, Ryan||Pérez-Domínguez, Citlali Y||Mendoza-Sanchez, Itza

publication date

  • January 2021