J Environ Manage. 2021 Jul 13;296:113270. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.113270. Online ahead of print.
Wastewater treatment plants are considered as hotspots of emerging antimicrobial genes and mobile genetic elements. We used a shotgun metagenomic approach to examine the wide-spectrum profiles of ARGs (antibiotic resistance genes) and MGEs (mobile genetic elements) in activated sludge samples from two different hospital trains at the wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Daegu, South Korea. The influent activated sludge and effluent of two trains (six samples in total) at WWTPs receiving domestic sewage wastewater (SWW) and hospital wastewater (HWW) samples collected at multiple periods were subjected to high throughput 16S rRNA metagenome sequencing for microbial community diversity. Cloacibacterium caeni and Lewinella nigricans were predominant in SWW effluents, while Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus epidermidis were predominant in HWW effluents based on the Miseq platform. Totally, 20,011 reads and 28,545 metagenomic sequence reads were assigned to 25 known ARG types in the SWW2 and HWW5 samples, respectively. The higher abundance of ARGs, including multidrug resistance (>53%, MDR), macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin (>9%, MLS), beta-lactam (>3.3%), bacitracin (>4.4%), and tetracycline (>3.4%), confirmed the use of these antibiotics in human medicine. In total, 190 subtypes belonging to 23 antibiotic classes were detected in both SWW2 and HWW5 samples. RpoB2, MacB, and multidrug (MDR) ABC transporter shared the maximum matched genes in both activated sludge samples. The high abundance of MGEs, such as a gene transfer agent (GTA) (four times higher), transposable elements (1.6 times higher), plasmid related functions (3.8 times higher), and phages (two times higher) in HWW5 than in SWW2, revealed a risk of horizontal gene transfer in HWW. Domestic wastewater from hospital patients also influenced the abundance of ARGs and MGEs in the activated sludge process.