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Can Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Household Food Waste be Reduced by Earthworm Vermicomposting? Underpinning Mechanisms and Strategies

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Hundreds of million tons of food waste (FW) is annually generated from the household sectors. Also, it is regarded as a main conduit for the spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the ‘human–environment’ loop. This paper mainly reviews recent studies on the occurrence and dynamics of ARGs in FW and discusses the ins, outs, and spreads of ARGs by the vermicomposting. Our analysis shows that the concentration of FW-borne ARGs and their major hosts (human pathogens) can be effectively reduced and eliminated in the earthworm guts, respectively, due to the increased bacterial fitness cost for ARG-spreading and earthworm immune responses. Of particular interest, the removal performance could be improved by the measures including agricultural waste co-composting and enforced aeration, which concurrently lead to an elevated vermicomposting loading rate and enhanced quality of compost end-products. Furthermore, our review argues that functional microbial inoculum-feeding possibly results in microbial colonization and stable reproduction in earthworm guts. This proposed optimization approach may be instrumental to contain the spread of ARGs and increase the vermicomposting treatment efficiency at the same time.

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(Source of data information: based on the document measurement method, results obtained in the Web of Science (WoS) database using keywords ‘Food Waste treatment (Topic)’ and ‘2018–2022 (Year Published)’.)

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This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (42107457), National Key Research and Development Program of China (2018YFC1901000), Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution Monitoring and Disease Control (KY2022383), Ministry of Education, Guizhou Medical University.


Funding was provided by National Natural Science Foundation of China (42107457), Key Technologies Research and Development Program (2018YFC1901000), Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution Monitoring and Disease Control (KY2022383).

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Correspondence to Dong Wu.

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Fang, R., Liu, X., Zheng, Z. et al. Can Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Household Food Waste be Reduced by Earthworm Vermicomposting? Underpinning Mechanisms and Strategies. Reviews Env.Contamination (formerly:Residue Reviews) 261, 1 (2023).

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