Exploration of the antibiotic resistome in a wastewater treatment plant by a nine-year longitudinal metagenomic study.

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Exploration of the antibiotic resistome in a wastewater treatment plant by a nine-year longitudinal metagenomic study.

Environ Int. 2019 Nov 01;133(Pt B):105270

Authors: Yin X, Deng Y, Ma L, Wang Y, Chan LYL, Zhang T

The spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) is a growing global problem. Activated sludge (AS) in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) has been proposed as a hotspot for ARGs. However, few studies have been conducted to uncover the temporal dynamics of the resistome of AS in WWTPs by long-term longitudinal sampling. In this study, we quantified ARGs and identified their host microbiome in a Hong Kong WWTP in 97 monthly AS samples spanning 9 years. Throughout this analysis, we demonstrated that both the abundance and structures of the resistome changed significantly every two to three years, implying that there was a successive selection of resistomes in the AS system over the study period. The detection of genes of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that are emerging major threats to public health in the AS samples, including mcr, CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)-related genes, highlight the role of WWTPs as reservoirs of ARGs. In addition, the core resistome (abundant and persistent genes) in AS were found to overlap with those in other ecosystems such as urban sewage, livestock feces, and fishpond sediments, revealing the broad dissemination of ARGs in WWTPs and other environments. Annual variation of resistomes were explained via structural equation modeling (SEM), which deciphered the structural linkages of determining factors such as the operational parameters, microbial community composition and horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Specifically, potentially relevant antibiotic resistance bacteria (ARBs) were explored and discussed based on assembly-based analyses and network correlations. Moreover, consistent with the clear relationship between resistomes and mobile genetic elements (MGEs), it was found that there was a relatively high potential for gene exchange in AS in comparison with soil genomes, which could be explained by the engineering features of WWTPs. Based on these findings, longitudinal monitoring of WWTPs is warranted for risk assessment to reveal emerging ARGs, resistome evolution, correlations with ARBs, and the potential for spread in downstream environments and concomitant exposure risks for humans.

PMID: 31683155 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]