Isabel Henriques
Rafael Tavares, Isabel Silva, Marta Tacão
METALcomplex: Metal contamination effect on the selection of antibiotic resistance and virulence in Estarreja
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health and several non-antibiotic contaminants, such as metals, seem to increase this problem. Evidences suggest that metals can co-select for antibiotic resistance. Likewise, several studies highlight the role of metals in bacteria’s virulence. This is extremely worrying since, in a metal contaminated environment, virulent bacteria, carrying AGRs, could be selected, representing a risk for public health.
Due to Estarreja Chemical Complex, Estarreja region is one of the most polluted in Portugal, being metal contamination one of the main problems. For decades, high quantities of waste were released by the industrial units, which included dust and sludge containing metals such as copper and zinc.
The main goal of METALcomplex is to assess the role of copper and zinc contamination in the evolution of antibiotic resistance in Estarreja area and assess the effect of these metals in bacteria’s virulence.
Projet OHMs
OHM(s) concerné(s)
  • Estarreja
Biologie, Génomique, Santé publique


Isabel Henriques is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, where she is director of the PhD programme in Biosciences. She is a Microbiologist, member of the Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM), where she leads the “Microbial and Cell Biology Lab”. She earned her PhD in Biology in 2006 from the University of Aveiro. She was an Assistant Researcher at University of Aveiro (2013-2018) funded by the “FCT Investigator” program and acted as Special Visiting Researcher (2013-2016) at Federal University of Pará (Brazil) financed by the Brazilian government. Her research has been oriented to address the ecology of antibiotic resistance in the environment. She has been interested in the mechanisms of transfer and evolution of antibiotic resistance, and how environmental and anthropogenic factors affect these mechanisms. A main interest has also been the impact of global changes in the microbiome (including soil and water microbiome) and microbiomes’ role in adaptation of organisms (plants and animals) to stressors. She participated in several research projects funded by FCT (2 as PI and 9 as team member), by FCT through the Water JPI program (1 as PI at UA) and by CNRS-LAbex DRIIHM (2 as PI). She made important contributions to her field of research, which were published in more than 90 papers in WoS journals, cited more than 2000 times, corresponding to an H factor of 23. Supervises/co-supervises 6 PhD students (plus 5 concluded). Supervised more than 20 MSc students.


MsC in Microbiology (in progress)
Degree in Biology
2 papers in international peer-reviewed journals, 3 oral and/or poster presentations in both national and international congresses; h-index: 2.
Main interests: Antibiotic resistance in environmental compartments; Anthropogenic activities and their effect on bacterial resistance; Mobile genetic elements and their success on the spread of resistance.
MsC in Microbiology
Degree in Biology
Research Grant Holder in Project “METOXCLIM - Metal contamination in a global warming perspective: effects on soil properties and relation with toxicity changes” 01/2019-present;
Team member in Project “MICROCLIM - Effects of global warming on microbial populations from contaminated agricultural soils in the area of Estarreja” – 01/2019-present;
Research Grant Holder in Project “Antibiotic resistance in aquatic systems: quantify risks and outline solutions” (IF/00492/2013) – 06-09/2018;
3 papers in international peer-reviewed journals, 1 communication in a national journal, 6 oral and/or poster presentations in both national and international congresses.
Main interests: Antimicrobial resistance in microbial strains and complex communities; dissemination of genetic determinants of antibiotic resistance in environmental compartments; characterization of microbial communities in natural environments; impact of anthropogenic contaminants on microbial communities.
PhD in Biology (specialization in microbiology), MsC in molecular microbiology and Degree in Biology;
25 papers in international peer-reviewed journals, 1 book chapter, over 40 oral and/or poster presentations in both national and international congresses, 11 project participations; h-index: 11
Main interests: Microbial communities, antibiotic resistance, co-resistance mechanisms, environmental reservoirs, human-impact in natural environments, mobilome.