Antimicrobial Resistance and Bacteriophages: An Overlooked Intersection in Water Disinfection

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This article focuses on how bacteriophages (phages), antibiotic-resistance genes (ARGs), and disinfection practices intersect. Phages are considered to be the most abundant biological entities on Earth and they have the potential to transfer genes (including ARGs) among their bacterial hosts. In the urban water cycle, phages are used as indicators of fecal pollution and surrogates for human viral pathogens but they are also known to withstand common disinfection treatments deployed to produce safe drinking/reclaimed water. Recent studies also suggest that phages have the potential to become an additional footprint to monitor water safety. A precautionary approach should therefore include phages in surveillance programs aimed at monitoring antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the urban water cycle. This article argues that phages ought to be used to assess the efficiency of disinfection treatments (both classical and novel) on reducing the risk associated with antibiotic resistance. Finally, this article discusses contributions to the advancement of AMR stewardship in aquatic settings and is relevant for researchers and water industry practitioners ​