Antibiotic resistance monitoring in wastewater in the Nordic countries: A systematic review

Ananda Tiwari, Adriana Krolicka, Tam T. Tran, Kati Räisänen, Ásta Margrét Ásmundsdóttir, Odd Gunnar Wikmark, Rolf Lood, Tarja Pitkänen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) have effectively kept lower antibiotic-resistant bacterial (ARB) pathogen rates than many other countries. However, in recent years, these five countries have encountered a rise in ARB cases and challenges in treating infections due to the growing prevalence of ARB pathogens. Wastewater-based surveillance (WBS) is a valuable supplement to clinical methods for ARB surveillance, but there is a lack of comprehensive understanding of WBS application for ARB in the Nordic countries. This review aims to compile the latest state-of-the-art developments in WBS for ARB monitoring in the Nordic countries and compare them with clinical surveillance practices. After reviewing 1480 papers from the primary search, 54 were found relevant, and 15 additional WBS-related papers were included. Among 69 studies analyzed, 42 dedicated clinical epidemiology, while 27 focused on wastewater monitoring. The PRISMA review of the literature revealed that Nordic countries focus on four major WBS objectives of ARB: assessing ARB in the human population, identifying ARB evading wastewater treatment, quantifying removal rates, and evaluating potential ARB evolution during the treatment process. In both clinical and wastewater contexts, the most studied targets were pathogens producing carbapenemase and extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL), primarily Escherichia coli and Klebsiella spp. However, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have received more attention in clinical epidemiology than in wastewater studies, probably due to their lower detection rates in wastewater. Clinical surveillance has mostly used culturing, antibiotic susceptibility testing, and genotyping, but WBS employed PCR-based and metagenomics alongside culture-based techniques. Imported cases resulting from international travel and hospitalization abroad appear to have frequently contributed to the rise in ARB pathogen cases in these countries. The many similarities between the Nordic countries (e.g., knowledge exchange practices, antibiotic usage patterns, and the current ARB landscape) could facilitate collaborative efforts in developing and implementing WBS for ARB in population-level screening.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118052
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Apr 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Infectious Medicine

Free keywords

  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacterales
  • Clinical surveillance
  • Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase
  • Nordic
  • Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus


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