Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 19, pp 8261–8274 | Cite as

The occurrence, maintenance, and proliferation of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the environment: influencing factors, mechanisms, and elimination strategies

  • Qian-Qian Zhang
  • Guang-Ming TianEmail author
  • Ren-Cun JinEmail author


Here, we review the possible reasons responsible for the occurrence, maintenance and proliferation of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the environment, as well as the corresponding mechanisms of their development, diffusion and transfer. Additionally, elimination strategies are also discussed. The factors that influence the development of ARGs are selection pressure, including that from antibiotics, metal and multiple other factors, co-resistance and cross-resistance, microbial consortium structure, nutrients in the environment and oxidative stress responses. Process parameters, transport pathways, and elimination strategies to reduce the health risk caused by ARGs are also reviewed in detail. Moreover, knowledge gaps and future opportunities of ARGs are addressed.


Antibiotic resistance genes Selection pressure Co-resistance and cross-resistance Horizontal and vertical gene transfer Elimination strategies 



The authors wish to thank the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51578204) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Project No. 2016YFD0800605) for their partial support of this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Life and Environmental SciencesHangzhou Normal UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Environmental EngineeringZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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