Effect of earthworms in reduction and fate of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) during clinical laboratory wastewater treatment by vermifiltration

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Jun 15;773:145152. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145152. Epub 2021 Feb 6.


In the recent decades, the role of wastewater treatment plants has been entrenched for the dissemination of antibiotic resistant bacteria into the environment. The present study explores the dynamics of earthworms-microorganisms interactions involved in the high treatment efficacy of vermifiltration technology along with reduction of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB). This study is the first of its kind to investigate the performance efficacy of vermifilter (VF) for clinical laboratory wastewater treatment. The results of the study showed that earthworms and VF associated microbial community had a significant effect on Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) reduction (78-85%), coliforms and pathogen removal (>99.9%) and caused a significant shift in the prevalence pattern of ARB. Molecular profiling of resistance causing genes such as ESBL (blaSHV, blaTEM and blaCTX-M), MRSA (mec-A) and Colistin (mcr-1) confirmed the probable mechanisms behind the resistance pattern. The microbial community diversity in the influent, earthworm's coelomic fluid and gut and filter media layers associated with the VF assists in the formation of biofilm, which helps in the removal of pathogens from the wastewater. This biofilm formation further results in a paradigm shift in the resistance profile of ARB and ARG, specifically most effective against drugs, targeting cell wall and protein synthesis inhibition such as Ampicillin, Ticarcillin, Gentamicin and Chloramphenicol. These findings further validate vermifiltration technology as a sustainable and natural treatment technology for clinical laboratory wastewater, specifically for the removal of pathogens and antibiotic resistance.

PMID:33940720 | DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145152