PCR-based Labs on Antibiotic Resistance in the Environment

The spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria is one of the great public health challenges of our time. The Prevalence of Antibiotic Resistance in the Environment (PARE) project at Tufts University works to empower students to address this challenge head-on by taking part in an international monitoring program.

The PARE project’s original curriculum involves culturing bacteria from soil on plates containing the antibiotic tetracycline. We’ve partnered with PARE to expand their approach into molecular testing, and developed two PCR-based labs that can be performed in any lab with basic molecular biology equipment.

So which approach is right for you?

  • Antibiotic Resistance Lab: Monitoring Resistant Organisms in the Environment: Our original collaboration with the PARE project presents students with a case study: dangerous carbapenem resistant bacteria have been identified as spreading in some farms. Your students must test the environmental DNA (eDNA) from two farms to see if the animals there are at risk. This approach brings high quality curriculum written in conjunction with college microbiology professors to classrooms in a format that is easy to implement. Importantly, because DNA samples are provided and no DNA extraction is needed, results tend to be incredibly robust, even for those new to the molecular lab. 
  • eDNA Project: Sampling Soil for Antibiotic Resistance: Our new offering allows students to test soils directly and in the process participate in the PARE project monitoring program. Students can collect soil based on their own hypotheses of where antibiotic resistance may or may not be common. They then extract total eDNA and use PCR to test for two common tetracycline resistance genes. Finally, students upload their results to the PARE database, helping scientists gain an understanding of where antibiotic resistance is most likely to be found. As an advanced procedure with unknown outcomes, this lab works great for advanced lab classes, independent research projects, and course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs).

Two is better than one: When paired together, these two labs provide an excellent scaffolded approach. Using the Antibiotic Resistance Lab, students can gain molecular lab experience and an understanding of the problem of antibiotic resistance in a format with reliable results. Then, they can take what they have learned and apply it in an authentic and meaningful way using the eDNA Project.

Antibiotic Resistance Lab eDNA Project
Approach Case study format Authentic soil sampling
Source of DNA samples Prepared DNA samples guarantee robust, repeatable results Environmental DNA extracted from student-gathered soil provides an authentic research experience with unknown outcomes
Best use
  • Traditional lab classes in general high school, advanced high school, or college
  • Advanced high school and college classes with molecular biology experience
  • Well suited for advanced lab classes, CUREs, and independent research
  • PCR
  • Gel electrophoresis
  • DNA extraction
  • PCR
  • Gel electrophoresis

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