Antibiotics are considered to be one of the major medical breakthroughs in history. Nonetheless, over the past four decades, antibiotic resistance has reached alarming levels worldwide and this trend is expected to continue to increase, leading some experts to forecast the coming of a ‘post-antibiotic’ era. Although antibiotic resistance in pathogens is traditionally linked to clinical environments, there is a rising concern that the global propagation of antibiotic resistance is also associated with environmental reservoirs that are linked to anthropogenic activities such as animal husbandry, agronomic practices and wastewater treatment. It is hypothesized that the emergence and dissemination of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) within and between environmental microbial communities can ultimately contribute to the acquisition of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens. Nonetheless, the scope of this phenomenon is not clear due to the complexity of microbial communities in the environment and methodological constraints that limit comprehensive in situ evaluation of microbial genomes. This review summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding antibiotic resistance in non-clinical environments, specifically focusing on the dissemination of antibiotic resistance across ecological boundaries and the contribution of this phenomenon to global antibiotic resistance.

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