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Reductions of bacterial antibiotic resistance through five biological treatment processes treated municipal wastewater


Wastewater treatment plants are hot spots for antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). However, limited studies have been conducted to compare the reductions of ARB and ARGs by various biological treatment processes. The study explored the reductions of heterotrophic bacteria resistant to six groups of antibiotics (vancomycin, gentamicin, erythromycin, cephalexin, tetracycline, and sulfadiazine) and corresponding resistance genes (vanA, aacC1, ereA, ampC, tetA, and sulI) by five bench-scale biological reactors. Results demonstrated that membrane bioreactor (MBR) and sequencing batch reactor (SBR) significantly reduced ARB abundances in the ranges of 2.80∼3.54 log and 2.70∼3.13 log, respectively, followed by activated sludge (AS). Biological filter (BF) and anaerobic (upflow anaerobic sludge blanket, UASB) techniques led to relatively low reductions. In contrast, ARGs were not equally reduced as ARB. AS and SBR also showed significant potentials on ARGs reduction, whilst MBR and UASB could not reduce ARGs effectively. Redundancy analysis implied that the purification of wastewater quality parameters (COD, NH4 +-N, and turbidity) performed a positive correlation to ARB and ARGs reductions.

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This project was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51308399) and the Shanghai Natural Science Foundation (13ZR1443300). The authors would like to thank the engineers of the WWTP for their assistance in obtaining the wastewater samples.

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Correspondence to Mei-Ting Guo.

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Responsible editor: Gerald Thouand

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Yuan, Q., Guo, M., Wei, W. et al. Reductions of bacterial antibiotic resistance through five biological treatment processes treated municipal wastewater. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 19495–19503 (2016).

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  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • Antibiotic resistance genes
  • Reduction
  • Biological treatment process
  • Municipal wastewater
  • Redundancy analysis