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The microbiome and resistome of hospital sewage during passage through the community sewer system

By Elena Buelow, Jumamurat R. Bayjanov, Rob JL Willems, Marc JM Bonten, Heike Schmitt, Willem van Schaik

Posted 09 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/216242

Effluents from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) have been proposed to act as point sources of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) in the environment. Hospital sewage may contribute to the spread of ARB and ARGs as it contains the feces and urine of hospitalized patients, who are more frequently colonized with multi-drug resistant bacteria than the general population. However, whether hospital sewage noticeably contributes to the quantity and diversity of ARGs in the general sewerage system has not yet been determined. Here, we employed culture-independent techniques, namely 16S rRNA and nanolitre-scale quantitative PCRs, to describe the role of hospital effluent as a point source of ARGs in the sewer system, through comparing microbiota composition and levels of ARGs in hospital sewage with WWTP influent, WWTP effluent and the surface water in which the effluent is released. Compared to other sample sites, hospital sewage was richest in human-associated bacteria and contained the highest relative levels of ARGs. Yet, the abundance of ARGs was comparable in WWTPs with and without hospital wastewater, suggesting that hospitals do not contribute to the spread of ARGs in countries with a functioning sewerage system.

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