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Water Res. 2011 Jan;45(2):681-93. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2010.08.033. Epub 2010 Aug 27.

Release of antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes in the effluent and biosolids of five wastewater utilities in Michigan.

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


The purpose of this study was to quantify the occurrence and release of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) and antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) into the environment through the effluent and biosolids of different wastewater treatment utilities including an MBR (Membrane Biological Reactor) utility, conventional utilities (Activated Sludge, Oxidative Ditch and Rotatory Biological Contactors-RBCs) and multiple sludge treatment processes (Dewatering, Gravity Thickening, Anaerobic Digestion and Lime Stabilization). Samples of raw wastewater, pre- and post-disinfected effluents, and biosolids were monitored for tetracycline resistant genes (tetW and tetO) and sulfonamide resistant gene (Sul-I) and tetracycline and sulfonamide resistant bacteria. ARGs and ARB concentrations in the final effluent were found to be in the range of ND(non-detectable)-2.33 × 10(6) copies/100 mL and 5.00 × 10(2)-6.10 × 10(5) CFU/100 mL respectively. Concentrations of ARGs (tetW and tetO) and 16s rRNA gene in the MBR effluent were observed to be 1-3 log less, compared to conventional treatment utilities. Significantly higher removals of ARGs and ARB were observed in the MBR facility (range of removal: 2.57-7.06 logs) compared to that in conventional treatment plants (range of removal: 2.37-4.56 logs) (p < 0.05). Disinfection (Chlorination and UV) processes did not contribute in significant reduction of ARGs and ARB (p > 0.05). In biosolids, ARGs and ARB concentrations were found to be in the range of 5.61 × 10(6)-4.32 × 10(9) copies/g and 3.17 × 10(4)-1.85 × 10(9) CFU/g, respectively. Significant differences (p < 0.05) were observed in concentrations of ARGs (except tetW) and ARB between the advanced biosolid treatment methods (i.e., anaerobic digestion and lime stabilization) and the conventional dewatering and gravity thickening methods.

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