Unveiling Antimicrobial Resistance in Irish Drinking Water: A Wake-Up Call for Public Health

Antimicrobial Resistance

Unveiling Antimicrobial Resistance in Irish Drinking Water: A Wake-Up Call for Public Health

Antimicrobial resistance is a global health crisis fuelled by the misuse of antibiotics in healthcare and their infiltration into the environment through wastewater. In Ireland, a recent study titled “Antimicrobial Resistance Is Prevalent in E. coli and Other Enterobacterales Isolated from Public and Private Drinking Water Supplies” sounds the alarm about antimicrobial resistance in our drinking water. This research analysed 201 samples of enterobacterales from various water sources, revealing some startling findings. This blog will delve into these findings and discuss their implications for public health in Ireland.


Understanding Antimicrobial Resistance:

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of antibiotics, rendering these drugs ineffective in treating infections. It’s a growing concern worldwide because it threatens the effectiveness of our most potent medical tools – antibiotics. Antibiotics treat Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Vibrio cholerae. These bacteria can contaminate water sources, leading to gastrointestinal illnesses or, in the case of Vibrio cholerae, cholera outbreaks. While antibiotics are not typically prescribed for mild cases, they are crucial in severe infections or where complications are likely.

Main Findings of this Study:

  1. Diverse Bacterial Species: The study uncovered various bacterial species in the water samples, including Escherichia coli, Serratia species, Enterobacter species, and others. This diversity raises concerns about the potential sources of contamination in our drinking water.
  2. Resistance to Common Antibiotics: Alarmingly, approximately 55% of the isolates exhibited resistance to amoxicillin, a commonly prescribed antibiotic, while 22% were resistant to amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, another widely used antibiotic. This suggests that our drinking water may contain bacteria resistant to antibiotics commonly employed in healthcare settings.
  3. Varied Resistance Levels: Resistance to other antibiotics like aztreonam, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, gentamicin, ceftriaxone, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole was also detected, though at levels below 10%. Thankfully, no resistance was seen against crucial antibiotics like amikacin, piperacillin/tazobactam, ertapenem, or meropenem.


antimicrobial resistance
Summary of the organisms found in the 201 water samples!

Implications for Public Health:

The presence of antimicrobial resistance in our drinking water raises several critical concerns:

  1. Public Health Risk: Antimicrobial resistance in drinking water poses a potential public health risk, as it may contribute to the spread of drug-resistant infections. People who consume or come into contact with contaminated water may unknowingly be exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  2. Antibiotic Effectiveness: The prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in our water supplies can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics when needed for medical treatment. This could lead to more prolonged and more severe illnesses, posing a direct threat to public health.
  3. Ongoing Monitoring: The study emphasises the need to continuously monitor our drinking water to track and address antimicrobial resistance. This will require collaboration between healthcare authorities and environmental agencies to safeguard public health.


Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance.

The findings of this research paper are a stark reminder of the need to prioritise water quality and its role in public health. Addressing the presence of antimicrobial resistance in our drinking water is not only essential but also urgent. By taking proactive measures, we can help ensure that our water remains safe and that antibiotics remain effective in our fight against infections.

How to Make Sure Your Water is Safe.

Southern Scientific Services ensures water safety, and this paper’s findings directly relate to our mission.

  • This study highlights the presence of antimicrobial resistance in drinking water, emphasising the importance of robust water testing.
  • Results from the study show a high percentage of bacteria in Irish drinking water that are resistant to our most common antibiotic medication.


We offer comprehensive water testing services to safeguard your health, ensuring your water is safe and free from harmful bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains—Trust Southern Scientific for peace of mind regarding your water quality.

Learn more about Drinking Water Testing with Southern Scientific Services!


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Reference: For further reading on the research paper discussed in this blog.

  1. Daly, Maureen et al. “Antimicrobial Resistance Is Prevalent in E. coli and Other Enterobacterales Isolated from Public and Private Drinking Water Supplies in the Republic of Ireland.” Microorganisms vol. 11,5 1224. 6 May. 2023, doi:10.3390/microorganisms11051224

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