Effects of soil texture and drought stress on the uptake of antibiotics and the internalization of Salmonella in lettuce following wastewater irrigation

Yuping Zhang, J. Brett Sallach, Laurie Hodges, Daniel D. Snow, Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt, Kent M. Eskridge, Xu Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Treated wastewater is expected to be increasingly used as an alternative source of irrigation water in areas facing fresh water scarcity. Understanding the behaviors of contaminants from wastewater in soil and plants following irrigation is critical to assess and manage the risks associated with wastewater irrigation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of soil texture and drought stress on the uptake of antibiotics and the internalization of human pathogens into lettuce through root uptake following wastewater irrigation. Lettuce grown in three soils with variability in soil texture (loam, sandy loam, and sand) and under different levels of water stress (no drought control, mild drought, and severe drought) were irrigated with synthetic wastewater containing three antibiotics (sulfamethoxazole, lincomycin and oxytetracycline) and one Salmonella strain a single time prior to harvest. Antibiotic uptake in lettuce was compound-specific and generally low. Only sulfamethoxazole was detected in lettuce with increasing uptake corresponding to increasing sand content in soil. Increased drought stress resulted in increased uptake of lincomycin and decreased uptake of oxytetracycline and sulfamethoxazole. The internalization of Salmonella was highly dependent on the concentration of the pathogen in irrigation water. Irrigation water containing 5 Log CFU/mL Salmonella resulted in limited incidence of internalization. When irrigation water contained 8 Log CFU/mL Salmonella, the internalization frequency was significantly higher in lettuce grown in sand than in loam (p = 0.009), and was significantly higher in lettuce exposed to severe drought than in unstressed lettuce (p = 0.049). This work demonstrated how environmental factors affected the risk of contaminant uptake by food crops following wastewater irrigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-531
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Nov 2015


  • Antibiotic
  • Drought stress
  • Salmonella
  • Soil texture
  • Wastewater irrigation

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