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Microbial Ecology

Risk assessment of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in wastewater treatment processes

Report no:

Ordered: 18.02.2019

Publishing: 01.10.2020

Key message:

The Norwegian Scientific Committee for food and environment (VKM) will assess whether the potential presence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in wastewater and sewage sludge used as fertilizer pose a risk for the environment.


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is present in most environments, and the development and the spread is a worldwide concern, and is an issue that should be considered in a multidisciplinary health perspective. The study of the occurrence of AMR is sporadic in many environments, but increased levels of AMR is found in environments such as soil, wastewater, sewage treatment plants, water and sediments.

The prevalence of AMR is expected to be higher in environments such as wastewater treatment plants, because they serve as important reservoirs since they receive wastewater from households, industry and hospitals where antibiotics are used. Wastewater from the treatment plant can be a source for the spread of AMR in the environment.


The Norwegian Environment Agency requests that VKM:

  • describe wastewater treatment methods used in Norway today and how does these methods affect the fate and survival of ARB and ARG, and the content of RD in effluent water released to the recipient.
  • describe the sewage sludge treatment methods used in Norway and assess the impact of these methods, on the fate and survival of ARB, ARG, and the content of RD.
    • asses if RDs in fertilising material produced from sewage sludge play a role in the development, spreading and persistence of bacterial resistance to these elements as well as cross or co-resistance to antimicrobial agents.
    • assess possibility if treated sewage sludge poses a hazard when utilized as a fertilising material in agriculture or in green areas. Also, identify application areas where the hazard for human and animal health or the environment is expected.
    • identify and assess various risk mitigation measures.
    • assess how significant the exposure of workers, farmers and the public to AMR through production and use of sludge as a fertiliser material in Norway.

The Panel on Microbial Ecology is responsible for the evaluation and approval of the final report drafted by the project group. The report is expected to be published in December 2019.


The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment

T: 21 62 28 00
@: vkm@vkm.no

P.O. Box 222 Skøyen
0213 Oslo

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