Bacteria, antibiotics, and antibiotic resistance determinants are key biological pollutants in aquatic systems, which may lead to bacterial infections or prevent the cure of bacterial infections. In this study, we investigated how the wastewater treatment processes in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) affect these pollutants. We found that the addition of oxygen, polyaluminum chloride (PAC), and polyacrylamide (PAM), as well as ultraviolet (UV) disinfection could significantly alter the bacterial communities in the water samples. An overall shift from Gram-negative bacteria to Gram-positive bacteria was observed throughout the wastewater treatment steps, but the overall bacterial biomass was not reduced in the WWTP samples. The antibiotic contents were reduced by the WWTP, but the size of the reduction and the step when antibiotic degradation occurred differed among antibiotics. Ciprofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole and erythromycin could be removed completely by the WWTP, whereas cephalexin could not. The removal of ciprofloxacin, cephalexin, and erythromycin occurred in the anaerobic digester, whereas the removal of sulfamethoxazole occurred after the addition of PAC and PAM, and UV disinfection. Antimicrobial resistance determinants were highly prevalent in all of the samples analyzed, except for those targeting vancomycin and colistin. However, wastewater treatment was ineffective at removing antimicrobial resistance determinants from wastewater. There were strong correlations between intI1, floR, sul1, and ermB, thereby suggesting the importance of integrons for the spread of these antimicrobial resistance genes. In general, this study comprised a stepwise analysis of the impact of WWTPs on three biological pollutants: bacteria, antibiotics, and antimicrobial resistance determinants, where our results suggest that the design of WWTPs needs to be improved to address the threats due to these pollutants.
Environmental Pollution – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2017
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