Inhalable Antibiotic Resistome from Wastewater Treatment Plants to Urban Areas: Bacterial Hosts, Dissemination Risks, and Source Contributions

Jiawen Xie, Ling Jin, Dong Wu, Amy Pruden, Xiangdong Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) are commonly detected in the atmosphere, but questions remain regarding their sources and relative contributions, bacterial hosts, and corresponding human health risks. Here, we conducted a qPCR- and metagenomics-based investigation of inhalable fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at a large wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and in the ambient air of Hong Kong, together with an in-depth analysis of published data of other potential sources in the area. PM2.5 was observed with increasing enrichment of total ARGs along the coastal-urban-WWTP gradient and clinically relevant ARGs commonly identified in urban and WWTP sites, illustrating anthropogenic impacts on the atmospheric accumulation of ARGs. With certain kinds of putative antibiotic-resistant pathogens detected in urban and WWTP PM2.5, a comparable proportion of ARGs that co-occurred with MGEs was found between the atmosphere and WWTP matrices. Despite similar emission rates of bacteria and ARGs within each WWTP matrix, about 11-13% of the bacteria and >57% of the relevant ARGs in urban and WWTP PM2.5 were attributable to WWTPs. Our study highlights the importance of WWTPs in disseminating bacteria and ARGs to the ambient air from a quantitative perspective and, thus, the need to control potential sources of inhalation exposure to protect the health of urban populations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • ARG host
  • emission rate
  • health risk
  • inhalable antibiotic resistome
  • pathogen
  • WWTP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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