EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Nuclear techniques for surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobial and antimicrobial resistance in soil and the environment

Michael Seidel1, Lisa Göpfert1, Martin Elsner1, Ivonne Nijenhuis2, Joseph Adu-Gyamfi3, Lee Heng3, and Marlos De Souza4
Michael Seidel et al.
  • 1Technical University of Munich, Marchioninistraße 17, 81377 München, Germany (
  • 2Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, (UFZ), Leipzig, Germany (
  • 3International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Sciences and Applications, Vienna, Austria (
  • 4Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N, Rome, Italy (

Antimicrobials (AM) play a critical role in the treatment of human and animal (aquatic and terrestrial) diseases, which has led to their widespread application and use. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, viruses and some parasites) to stop an antibiotic, such as an antimicrobial, antiviral or antimalarial, from working against them. Globally, about 700 000 deaths per year arise from resistant infections as a result of the fact that antimicrobial drugs have become less effective at killing resistant pathogens. Antimicrobial chemicals that are present in environmental compartments can trigger the development of AMR. These chemicals can also cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) to further spread antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) because they may have an evolutionary advantage over non-resistant bacteria. Thus, AMR is a global threat to health, livelihoods and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, both in developing and developed countries. For some time now, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been approached mainly from the human and animal health angles, however little is known about the impacts that AMR in the environment may have on health. A better understanding of how antimicrobial resistance moves from agricultural areas to the environment through soil and water is important if we are to develop guidance to managing it cost effectively. We examined the potential of nuclear techniques—the application of compound-specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA)—as a powerful tool to determine the source and fate of antibiotics in the environment and detect the degradation of antibiotics by transformation-induced isotopic effects. CSIA can be used to qualify and quantify in situ transformations. The latest methodological advances even allow the analysis of several elements (H, C, Cl, N) within a molecule This multi-element isotope information is used to elucidate in-situ transformation pathways and underlying reaction mechanisms.

How to cite: Seidel, M., Göpfert, L., Elsner, M., Nijenhuis, I., Adu-Gyamfi, J., Heng, L., and De Souza, M.: Nuclear techniques for surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobial and antimicrobial resistance in soil and the environment, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-5746,, 2020


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