Viability of multiple antibiotic resistant bacteria (MARB) in tertiary treated sewage effluent (TTSE) used for irrigation, was investigated at the Sultan Qaboos University sewage treatment plant (STP). This water recycle system is used here as a model for the systems commonly used throughout Oman and the Gulf region. Samples of TTSE were collected weekly from four sites, 1.5 km from each other. Chlorine levels declined gradually at the three sites with increasing distance from the STP. Viable bacteria, coliforms and nitrate concentrations increased significantly while biological oxygen demand (BOD) declined after STP chlorination. Mean values of turbidity changed slightly. Trace elements values were insignificant. A total of 336 bacteria from 8 genera revealed that the dominant isolates were Enterobacter spp., Pseudomonas spp., and Aeromonas spp. Among the isolates 59.8% were multiply resistant to several antibiotics. Resistance was higher to ampicillin followed by sulphamethoxazole, carbenicillin, streptomycine and minocycline. Frequency of resistance to the 14 antibiotics varied among the isolates. The present system related to the viability of MARB in TTSE used for irrigation may have serious implications for public health and wildlife. Results of this investigation will be of value in modifying current STPs systems and thus avoiding serious health issues.
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