Surveillance of Pathogens and Antibiotic Resistances in Aquatic Ecosystems (SARA)

Research project within the AquaticPollutants Joint Transnational Call 2020

Sampling points for the surveillance at model sites

A better understanding of the fate of pathogenic viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria from the sources to river basins and estuaries are urgently required. The international research project SARA, coordinated by the TZW, aims to close this knowledge gap.

Our project will determine the prevalence of pathogenic viruses (including SARS-CoV-2), microbial indicators, antibiotic resistance, and microbial source tracking (MST) markers in wastewater, surface water, coastal sea waters, sediment and bivalve molluscan shellfish (BMS) in catchments located in different climate areas (Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Mozambique, and Uganda). The project aims are: (i) method harmonization and training of European and African partners, (ii) SARS-CoV-2 detection in raw wastewater as a biomarker of COVID-19 cases, (iii) enteric viruses, antibiotic resistances and MST markers monitoring in aquatic environments, (iv) evaluation of sediments and BMS as integral reservoirs, (v) determination of the impact of climate and extreme weather events, and (vi) microbial risk assessment for water resources.

The project is accompanied by a Stakeholder Forum consisting of representatives of international health and environmental organizations as well as authorities and water utilities. The project will investigate the spread of viruses, antibiotic resistant bacteria, antibiotic resistance genes and MST markers through wastewater and wastewater treatment plant effluents via streams and rivers to the sea. Culture methods as well as molecular biology and metagenomic methods will be used.

The results will help to unravel the pathways involved in the spread of viruses and antibiotic resistance in the environment and facilitate risk assessment and mitigation measures to evaluate and reduce human exposure.


Stange C.,Sidhu J.P.S.,Tiehm A.,Toze S.: Antibiotic resistance and virulence genes in coliform water isolates.
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 219: 823-831 (2016)

Stange, C.; Yin, D.; Xu, T.; Guo, X.; Schäfer, C.; Tiehm, A.Distribution of clinically relevant antibiotic resistance genes in Lake Tai, China. Science of the total environment 655: 337–346 (2019) DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.11.211

Ho J., Seidel M., Niessner R., Eggert J., Tiehm A.: Long amplicon (LA)-qPCR for the discrimination of infectious and noninfectious phiX174 bacteriophages after UV inactivation. Water Research 103: 141-148 (2016) DOI 10.1016/j.watres.2016.07.032