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Environmental Pollution

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Antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern. Triclosan is an antimicrobial compound with direct links to antibiotic resistance that was widely used in soaps in the U.S. until its ban by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Benzalkonium chloride (BAC), a quaternary ammonium compound, has widely replaced triclosan in soaps marketed as an antibacterial. BAC has been detected in surface waters and its presence will likely increase following increased use in soap products. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of BAC on relative abundance of antibiotic resistance in a bacterial community from a surface water used as a source for drinking water treatment. Bench-scale microcosm experiments were conducted with microbial communities amended with BAC at concentrations ranging from 0.1 μg L−1 to 500 μg L−1. Phenotypic antibiotic resistance was quantified by culturing bacteria in the presence of different antibiotics, and genotypic resistance was determined using qPCR to quantify antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). BAC at concentrations ranging from 0.1 μg L−1 to 500 μg L−1 was found to positively select for bacteria resistant to ciprofloxacin and sulfamethoxazole, and negatively select against bacteria with resistance to six other antibiotics. Exposure to BAC for 14 days increased the relative abundance of sul1 and blaTEM. This study re-highlights the importance of employing both culture and non-culture-based techniques to identify selection for antibiotic resistance. The widespread use of BAC will likely impact antibiotic resistance profiles of bacteria in the environment, including in source waters used for drinking water, wastewater treatment plants, and natural waterways.


Accepted version. Environmental Pollution, Vol. 257 (February 2020): 113472. DOI. © 2020 Elsevier. Used with permission.

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