Effect of electrical stimulation on the fate of sulfamethoxazole and tetracycline with their corresponding resistance genes in three-dimensional biofilm-electrode reactors

Shuai Zhang, Hai-Liang Song, Xiao-Li Yang, Ke-Yun Yang, Xiao-Yang Wang
Chemosphere 2016, 164: 113-119
Three-dimensional biofilm-electrode reactors (3D-BERs), which possess a large effective area to drive the reductive degradation of contaminants, have recently attracted attention for wastewater treatment. There have been few studies of the potential and risks of the application of this system on the removal of antibiotics. Here four 3D-BERs were designed to initially assess the potential for electrical stimulation to remove sulfamethoxazole (SMX), tetracycline (TC) and chemical oxygen demand, and to study the fate of the corresponding antibiotic resistance genes. The results indicated that the 3D-BER could significantly reduce antibiotic concentrations in wastewater, achieving removal rates of 88.9-93.5% and 89.3-95.6% for SMX and TC, respectively. The concentrations of target genes (sulI, sulII, sulIII, tetA, tetC, tetO, tetQ, and tetW) in a granular-activated carbon (GAC) cathode were higher than those in a GAC anode in the 3D-BR (reactor with biological sludge and no voltage) and 3D-BER. An obvious increasing trend in the relative abundances of all target genes was observed in the GAC. A low current density could not increase the development of sul and tet genes in the 3D-BER. The total resistance was in the following order: 3D-BER > 3D-BR > 3D-ER (reactor with 0.8 V and without biological sludge). In addition, the dehydrogenase activity of the microorganisms in the 3D-BER was significantly higher than in the 3D-BR (p < 0.05). High-throughput sequencing revealed that the microbial communities and relative abundance at the phyla level were affected by current stimulation.

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