WYOMISSING, Pa. – Two Penn State Berks students received an honorable mention at the Mid-Atlantic Ecological Society of America (ESA) Annual Meeting, which was held from March 31 to April 2 at the University of Delaware. Erin Horack, a second-year biotechnology major, and Quang Vinh Lu, a second-year biology major, presented their research, titled “Antibiotic-Resistant Gene Expression in Water Quality Indicators, Escherichia coli, and Enterococci, Extracted from the Delaware River Basin.”
Their research consisted of testing monthly water and sediment samples from various locations within the Delaware River Watershed along Tulpehocken Creek and Blue Marsh Lake for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The bacteria on which they chose to focus were Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Enterococci, as they are recognized as indicator strains by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After isolating and culturing the bacteria, Horack and Lu performed Kirby Bauer analysis to determine the bacteria's resistance to six medically relevant antibiotics.
The results of the study found that nearly 85 percent of the isolated E. coli were resistant to ampicillin. Ampicillin is commonly used to treat respiratory tract and gastrointestinal infections. Their study also found that close to 88 percent of isolated Enterococci were resistant to tetracycline, most notably used to treat pneumonia and skin infections. These findings suggest elevated levels of antibiotic-resistant genes are prevalent in environmental samples collected from the watershed.
Four other student researchers from the Penn State Berks group, led by Tami Mysliwiec, associate professor of biology, and Jill Felker, lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology laboratory manager, also attended the conference and presented their research on microplastics and antibiotic-resistant gene expression. Those students included Emma Diliberti, Shantelle Duarte, Ali Naqvi and Olivia Sullivan.
About The Mid-Atlantic ESA Annual Meeting
The Mid-Atlantic ESA annual meeting brings together students, researchers, teachers and practitioners from the Mid–Atlantic region and beyond. The meeting offers an excellent opportunity for both undergraduate and graduate ecology students to present their research in all ecology-related topics.