Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 597–604 | Cite as

Bacterial perspectives on the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes in domestic wastewater bio-treatment systems: beneficiary to victim

  • Dong Wu
  • Jan Dolfing
  • Bing XieEmail author


Domestic wastes, ranging from sewage and sludge to municipal solid waste, are usually treated in bioprocessing systems. These systems are regarded as main conduits for the elevated levels of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) observed in the environment. This paper mainly reviews recent studies on the occurrence and dynamics of ARGs in wastewater bio-treatment systems and discusses the ins and outs of ARG dissemination from the perspective of the microbial community. Our analysis shows that concentration of antibiotics through adsorption to microbial aggregates triggers the bacteria to acquire ARGs, which can be facilitated by the presence of mobile genetic elements. Notably, the acquisition and flow of ARGs during the rapid dissemination process is directed towards and for the best interests of the microbial community as a whole, and is influenced by surrounding nutrient levels, toxicant types, and sensitivities of the species in the prevailing antibiotic-stressed conditions. Furthermore, our review argues that predation of ARG-carrying bacteria by bacteriophages does periodically enhance the accessibility of ARGs to bacteria, which indirectly facilitates the recruitment of ARGs into environmental microbial communities.


Domestic wastes Antibiotic resistance genes Waste bio-treatment Antibiotic resistance dissemination 



This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (21577038,31370510) and East China Normal University: Outstanding doctoral dissertation cultivation plan of action (PY2015034). J.D. acknowledges an international exchange grant from the Royal Society (Grant IE131283) for work on the treatment of landfill leachate. D.W. acknowledges the support from Distinguished Young PhD student Fellowship granted by Shanghai Tongji Gao-Tingyao Environmental Science & Technology Development Foundation (STGEF2017).

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

There is no ethical or legal conflict involved in this article.

Consent for publication

The manuscript has not been published elsewhere and all authors have seen the manuscript and approved to submit to your journal with mutual consent.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shanghai Key Lab for Urban Ecological Processes and Eco-Restoration, School of Ecological and Environmental ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Shanghai Institute of Pollution Control and Ecological SecurityTongji UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Joint Research Institute for New Energy and the EnvironmentEast China Normal University and Colorado State UniversityShanghaiChina
  4. 4.School of Civil Engineering and GeosciencesNewcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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