Antibiotic resistance an ever-increasing public health concern because of overuse and misuse of antibiotics that contribute to the maintenance of resistance. Genes conferring for antibiotic resistance within ancient microbial communities’ have been found to be functionally diverse prior to the anthropogenic use of antibiotics (Perron et al. 2015). Moreover, plasmid carriage usually confers with extensive fitness costs; however, the existence of antibiotic resistance in ancient microbial communities is suggestive of selective pressures for these plasmids (Gullberg et al. 2014). The co-occurrence of antibiotic and heavy metal resistance on plasmid and chromosomal genes has been examined and may be indicative of a co-selection potential (Pal et al. 2015). Metals found in soils, such as arctic permafrost, may therefore act as a selection tool for this antibiotic resistance which as permafrost is disturbed can expose ancient antibiotic resistant microbes that have the potential to be a major public health concern as humans, animals, and plant species alike come into contact. It is essential to predict and understand the correlation between heavy metal and antibiotic resistance in thawing permafrost microbial communities in order to examine potential impacts changing permafrost will have on arctic ecosystems.
The overall goal of this project is to establish the extent of heavy metal resistance in boreal forest permafrost microbial communities through culture based methods and genomic analysis within a Fairbanks permafrost thaw gradient.