Growth and prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in microplastic biofilm from wastewater treatment plant effluents
It is accepted that Microplastic (MP) biofilms accumulates antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) in water. ARB/ARGs and MPs are emerging pollutants of concern due to various associated health risks. The objective of this study was to 1) investigate the ARB community in a pilot-scale wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent, 2) to study and visualize the ARB/ARGs in MP biofilm grown in WWTP effluent and tap water, and 3) to analyze microplastic adherent ARB/ARGs in the biofilm and planktonic ARB/ARGs in the filtrate under controlled conditions. Results indicated the dominance of Pseudomonas, Aeromonas, and Bacillus among isolated ARB in WWTP effluent. Representative resistance strains were incubated in 300 mL water containing commercial polystyrene beads of 300550 μm diameter (MP) in a series of batch experiments. Microbiological, molecular, and microscopic analyses were performed by enumeration, 16srRNA, real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), and Field Emission-Scanning Electron Microscopy (FEG-SEM) techniques. The analyzed viable ARB indicated an increasing trend in MP biofilms between days 3 and 5. It further decreased on days 7 and 9. The prevalence of ARB in the filtrate and MP biofilm varied as a function of time and TOC level, while no significant impacts were observed for minor temperature variation, low antibiotic pressure, and increased MP mass with few exceptions. Relative abundance of ARGs (vanA, sul1) and integron integrase gene (intl1) in MP biofilm were significantly different across different TOC levels, time, and antibiotic pressure. ARGs and intl1 were detected in the MP biofilm in tap water and WWTP effluent on day 30.
The authors acknowledge the financial support of the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme in the frame of REWATERGY, Sustainable Reactor Engineering for Applications on the Water-Energy Nexus, MSCA-ITN-EID Project N. 812574, and the Spanish State Research Agency (AEI) and the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities through the project CALYPSOL-ATECWATER (RTI2018-097997-B-C33).
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