Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 11, pp 11269–11278 | Cite as

Neighbor urban wastewater treatment plants display distinct profiles of bacterial community and antibiotic resistance genes

  • Telma Fernandes
  • Ivone Vaz-Moreira
  • Célia M. ManaiaEmail author
Research Article


Urban wastewater treatment plants (UWTPs) are among the major recipients of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB), antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), and antibiotic residues in urban environments. Although during treatment, bacteria of human and animal origin are removed, some are able to survive, persisting in the final effluent. The occurrence of these bacteria, especially those harboring ARGs, may have a direct impact on the quality of the treated wastewater that is returned to the environment. In this study, we aimed to assess if the final effluent bacterial communities of three UWTPs (PT1, PT2, and PT3) located next to each other were distinct and if such differences were related with the antibiotic resistance profiles.

It was observed that the bacterial community (16S rRNA gene Illumina sequencing) and load of selected ARGs of final effluent differed among the three UWTPs, irrespective of sampling time. Members of the families Aeromonadaceae, Campylobacteraceae, Veillonellaceae, [Weeksellaceae], and Porphyromonadaceae were observed to be positively correlated with some ARGs (blaCTX–M, blaOXA-A, blaSHV) and intI1 (p < 0.05), while Intrasporangiaceae were observed to be negatively correlated. While Aeromonadaceae are recognized relevant ARG harbors, the other bacterial families may represent bacteria that co-exist with the ARG hosts, which may belong to minor bacterial groups omitted in the analyses. These findings suggest the importance of bacterial dynamics during treatment to the ARB&ARGs removal, a rationale that may contribute to design new strategies to apply in the UWTPs to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.


Final effluent Selection Bacterial diversity Antibiotic resistance genes Correlation analyses 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the staff of the UWTPs and supplying entities that made this study possible by providing the water samples; Christophe Merlin that kindly provided the integrase gene qPCR protocol and Gonçalo Macedo and Jaqueline Rocha for technical assistance on sampling, DNA extraction, and qPCR analysis.

Funding information

This work was funded by National Funds from FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia through project WaterJPI/0001/2013 STARE – “Stopping Antibiotic Resistance Evolution,” and UID/Multi/50016/2013. IVM was supported by the FCT grant (SFRH/BPD/87360/2012).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Telma Fernandes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ivone Vaz-Moreira
    • 1
  • Célia M. Manaia
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Universidade Católica Portuguesa, CBQF - Centro de Biotecnologia e Química Fina – Laboratório Associado, Escola Superior de BiotecnologiaPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica António XavierUniversidade Nova de Lisboa (ITQB NOVA)OeirasPortugal

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