Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Environmental Health Sciences

First Advisor

R. Sean Norman


Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem with the current global death count topping 700,000. In the United States alone there are 2.8 million antibiotic resistant bacterial (ARB) infections each year and approximately 35,000 deaths. If current trends continue the global ARB death count will reach 10 million surpassing current chronic disease deaths. Wastewater treatment plants play a vital role in protecting both the environment as well as local communities. The WWTP process allows for the removal of chemicals and contaminants from water that eventually makes its way back into the environment as well as into drinking water plants. Despite the efficacy of the treatment process WWTPs have become reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria. WWTPs function as a bridge between the sociological and ecological antibiotic resistant (AR) cycles so it is vital to investigate the fate of ARBs during the treatment process. Our data show that there is seasonal dependent variability in antibiotic resistant gene (ARG) abundance in aerosols generated during the WWTP process and that the warmer months experience a higher abundance of aerosolized ARGs as well as a higher variability in daily abundance. These data will be crucial in future work investigating the potential public health risk for exposure to aerosolized ARGs in WWTP employees and surrounding communities.