Differentiating anthropogenic impacts on ARGs in the Pearl River Estuary by using suitable gene indicators

Baowei Chen, Ximei Liang, Xiaoping Huang, Tong Zhang, Xiangdong Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

178 Citations (Scopus)


Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) are increasingly a focus of concern because they pose a potential health risk. The Pearl River (PR) and Pearl River Estuary (PRE) show a distinct gradient in anthropogenic impacts, in particular associated with the use of antibiotics, from the river, to the estuary, and on to the coast. In this study, two surveys were conducted in the PR and PRE areas during the winter and summer of 2011, respectively. Seven tet genes consisting of efflux pump (tetA, tetC, and tetH) and ribosomal protection proteins (tetB, tetM, tetO, and tetW) were analyzed using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. The tet genes, with the exception of tetA and tetH, were widely detected in the PR and PRE environments. The tet genes exhibited a trend of an increase in total concentration and diversity with the degree of anthropogenic impacts from the river to the coast, indicating that riverine input was the main source of ARGs in the region. Significant correlations were observed between tet genes and antibiotic concentrations, as well as among different environmental compartments (water and sediments). The distribution patterns of tet genes were similar between the potential sources of pollution and the highly-impacted sites, but were significantly different between less-impacted sites and highly-impacted ones or pollution sources. The results suggest that ARGs and antibiotics may be released from identical sources, and transported in a similar manner in estuary/coastal environments close to sources of pollution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2811-2820
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2013


  • Antibiotics
  • ARGs
  • Distribution ratios
  • Pearl River Estuary
  • South China
  • Tet genes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Ecological Modelling


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