Pathogens are becoming nearly untreatable due to the rise in gaining new resistance against standard antibiotics. Coexistence of microbial pathogens, antibiotics and antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) in wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) provide favourable conditions for the development of new antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB); facilitate horizontal gene transfer among pathogens and may also serve as a hotspot for the spread of ARB and genes into the environment. In this study, the current status of wastewater treatment systems in the removal of pathogens, ARGs, and antibiotic residues are discussed. WWTP are efficient in removing pathogens and antibiotic residues to a greater extend during secondary and tertiary treatment processes. Recent studies, however, have shown high variations in the presence of pathogens including ARB as well as antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) in the final effluent. Prolonged sludge retention time (SRT) and hydraulic retention time (HRT) during secondary treatment will facilitate antibiotic removal by adsorption and biodegradation. However, the above conditions can also lead to the enhancement of antibiotic resistance process in microbes. Therefore, optimum conditions for the operation of conventional WWTP for the efficient removal of antibiotics are yet to be established. The removal of antibiotic residues can be accelerated by combining conventional activated sludge (CAS) process with an additional treatment technology involving dosing with ozone. The advanced biological treatment method using membrane bioreactors (MBR) in combination with coagulation reportedly has the best ARG removal efficiency, and removes both ARB and extracellular ARGs. While studies have predicted the fate for ARGs in wastewater treatment plants, the mechanisms of ARGs acquisition remains to be conclusively established. Thus, strategies to investigate the underlying mechanism of acquisition of ARGs within the WWTP are also provided in this review.
Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 12, 2017
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