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Fate of antibiotic and metal resistance genes during two-phase anaerobic digestion of residue sludge revealed by metagenomic approach

Wu, Ying, Cui, Erping, Zuo, Yiru, Cheng, Weixiao, Chen, Hong
Environmental science and pollution research international 2018 v.25 no.14 pp. 13956-13963
anaerobic digestion, antibiotic resistance genes, antibiotics, genetic databases, heavy metals, interspersed repetitive sequences, metagenomics, metal tolerance, methanogens, microbial communities, sludge, wastewater treatment
The prevalence and persistence of antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is of growing interest, and residual sludge is among the main sources for the release of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Moreover, heavy metals concentrated in dense microbial communities of sludge could potentially favor co-selection of ARGs and metal resistance genes (MRGs). Residual sludge treatment is needed to limit the spread of resistance from WWTPs into the environment. This study aimed to explore the fate of ARGs and MRGs during thermophilic two-phase (acidogenic/methanogenic phase) anaerobic digestion by metagenomic analysis. The occurrence and abundance of mobile genetic elements were also determined based on the SEED database. Among the 27 major ARG subtypes detected in feed sludge, large reductions (> 50%) in 6 ARG subtypes were achieved by acidogenic phase (AP), while 63.0% of the ARG subtypes proliferated in the following methanogenic phase (MP). In contrast, a 2.8-fold increase in total MRG abundance was found in AP, while the total abundance during MP decreased to the same order of magnitude as in feed sludge. The distinct dynamics of ARGs and MRGs during the two-phase anaerobic digestion are noteworthy, and more specific treatments are required to limit their proliferation in the environment.