Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 98, Issue 7, pp 3317–3326

Tracking human sewage microbiome in a municipal wastewater treatment plant

Environmental biotechnology

DOI: 10.1007/s00253-013-5402-z

Cite this article as:
Cai, L., Ju, F. & Zhang, T. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2014) 98: 3317. doi:10.1007/s00253-013-5402-z


Human sewage pollution is a major threat to public health because sewage always comes with pathogens. Human sewage is usually received and treated by wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to control pathogenic risks and ameliorate environmental health. However, untreated sewage that flows into water environments may cause serious waterborne diseases, as reported in India and Bangladesh. To examine the fate of the human sewage microbiome in a local municipal WWTP of Hong Kong, we used massively parallel sequencing of 16S rRNA gene to systematically profile microbial communities in samples from three sections (i.e., influent, activated sludge, and effluent) obtained monthly throughout 1 year. The results indicated that: (1) influent sewage bacterial profile reflected the human microbiome; (2) human gut bacterial community was the dominant force shaping influent sewage bacterial profile; (3) most human sewage bacteria could be effectively removed by the WWTP; (4) a total of 75 genera were profiled as potentially pathogenic bacteria, most of which were still present in the effluent although at a very low level; (5) a grouped pattern of bacterial community was observed among the same section samples but a dispersed pattern was found among the different section samples; and (6) activated sludge was less affected by the influent sewage bacteria, but it showed a significant impact on the effluent bacteria. All of these findings provide novel insights toward a mechanistic understanding of the fate of human sewage microbiome in the WWTP.


SewageHuman sewage microbiomePathogensWastewater treatment plantActivated sludge454 pyrosequencing

Supplementary material

253_2013_5402_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (193 kb)
ESM 1(PDF 193 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory, Department of Civil EngineeringThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina