HYREKA – Biological and Sanitary-Medical Relevance and Control of Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens in Clinical, Agricultural and Urban Sewage and Their Importance in Raw Water



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Increasing isolation rates of multi-resistant bacteria indicate that these find their way back from the environment to humans. This spread of resistant bacteria and the decreasing number of newly registered antibiotics challenge today’s medicine with bacterial infections that are unresponsive to therapy.

The project’s primary aim is to show these feedbacks from humans or animals to environment and back (entry paths). These entry paths are manifold. Some of them are hospitals or everyday life places with access to water, sewage or via contaminated food. Furthermore, the traceability back to the original source of germs resistant to antibiotics and resistance genes in wastewater has to be examined.

The project network pursues the following goals:

  • Qualitative and quantitative investigation of the inputs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes and antibiotics residues into the environment, due to wastewater from hospitals, communal wastewater or wastewater from animal fattening industries. The load situation and the distribution paths will be identified in order to assess risk potentials.
  • Characterization of the transmission risk between environment, agriculture or animal fattening and humans through contact with contaminated water or food. (Microbial Dissemination).
  • Examination of the traceability of antibiotic-resistant germs and resistance genes from waste water to the original source as laid down in the Microbial Source Tracking.
  • Innovative technical wastewater treatment methods in sewage treatment plants are supposed to interrupt the germs‘ distribution paths.
  • The HyReKA-Project’s results function as a basis to recommendations for actions which serve for authorities to formulate adjusted regulations for the identified risk areas.

The Institute for Environmental Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, ISA for the short, is responsible for all tasks related to water management in the joint project. The main purpose is the economical evaluation which options are able to reduce emissions from different entry paths and different sorts of wastewater. Therefore, the following work steps are necessary:

  • Identification and characterization of relevant entry paths
  • Load balancing of the relevant entry pathways
  • Evaluation of technical measures and strategies to reduce the the emissions of antibiotic resistances
  • Cost analysis and recommended action plans for sewage disposal copmpanies

Information about the HYREKA Research Project

Funding agency

Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)


February 2016 – July 2019

Project Manager

Prof. Dr. Dr. Martin Exner (IHPH Bonn)

Project Team

Julian Firk M.Sc.
Peter Schleiffer M.Sc.

Project Partners

Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)
Institut für Funktionelle Grenzflächen (IFG)
Institut für Mikrosystemtechnik (IMT)
Universitätsklinikum Bonn
Institut für Hygiene und öffentliche Gesundheit (IHPH)
Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Immunologie und Parasitologie (IMMIP)
Universität Bonn
International FoodNetCenter (FNC)
Institut für Ernährungs- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften (IEL), Lebensmittelverfahrenstechnik
Institut für Tierwissenschaften (ITW), Präventives Gesundheitsmanagement
Technische Universität Dresden
Institut für Hydrobiologie
RWTH Aachen University
Institut für Siedlungswasserwirtschaft der RWTH Aachen (ISA)
Umweltbundesamt Bad Elster
TZW Karlsruhe
Erftverband Bergheim
Oldenburgisch-Ostfriesischer Wasserverband (OOWV)
Zweckverband Klärwerk Steinhäule
Xylem Services GmbH