Sulfamethoxazole and COD increase abundance of sulfonamide resistance genes and change bacterial community structures within sequencing batch reactors

Xueping Guo, Weihai Pang, Chunling Dou, Daqiang Yin
Chemosphere 2017, 175: 21-27
The abundant microbial community in biological treatment processes in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) may potentially enhance the horizontal gene transfer of antibiotic resistance genes with the presence of antibiotics. A lab-scale sequencing batch reactor was designed to investigate response of sulfonamide resistance genes (sulI, sulII) and bacterial communities to various concentrations of sulfamethoxazole (SMX) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) of wastewater. The SMX concentrations (0.001 mg/L, 0.1 mg/L and 10 mg/L) decreased with treatment time and higher SMX level was more difficult to remove. The presence of SMX also significantly reduced the removal efficiency of ammonia nitrogen, affecting the normal function of WWTPs. All three concentrations of SMX raised both sulI and sulII genes with higher concentrations exhibiting greater increases. The abundance of sul genes was positive correlated with treatment time and followed the second-order reaction kinetic model. Interestingly, these two genes have rather similar activity. SulI and sulII gene abundance also performed similar response to COD. Simpson index and Shannon-Weiner index did not show changes in the microbial community diversity. However, the 16S rRNA gene cloning and sequencing results showed the bacterial community structures varied during different stages. The results demonstrated that influent antibiotics into WWTPs may facilitate selection of ARGs and affect the wastewater conventional treatment as well as the bacteria community structures.

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