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Volume 283, 2021, 131224

Metagenomic profiles and health risks of pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes in various industrial wastewaters and the associated receiving surface water

Yao Tanga,1, Zhishu Lianga,b,1, Guiying Lia,b , Huijun Zhaoc, Taicheng Ana,b

Guangdong Key Laboratory of Environmental Catalysis and Health Risk Control, Guangdong Hong Kong-Macao Joint Laboratory for Contaminants Exposure and Health, Institute of Environmental Health and Pollution Control, Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou, 510006, China.


The aquatic environment may represent an essential route for transmission of antibiotic resistance to opportunistic human pathogens. Since industrial wastewater is discharged into the river after treatment, understanding the distribution of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in river systems and the possibility of pathogens acquiring antibiotic resistance are challenges with far-reaching significance. This work mainly studied distribution profiles of pathogens and ARGs, and compared their health risk in various industrial wastewater with that of river water. Results showed that 166 pathogens were concurrently shared by the six water samples, with Salmonella enterica and Pseudomonas aeruginosa being the most abundant, followed by Fusarium graminearum and Magnaporthe oryzae. The similar composition of the pathogens suggests that pathogens in river water may mainly come from sewage discharge of slaughterhouses and that changes in water quality contribute significantly to the prevalence of these pathogens. Of the 57 ARG types detected, bacitracin was the most abundant, followed by sulfonamide, chloramphenicol, tetracycline, and aminoglycoside. Strikingly, the wastewater from a pharmaceutical factory producing Chinese medicine was also rich in bacAsul1mexWmexBmexF and oprn. It can be seen from the co-occurrence patterns that pathogens and the main ARGs have strong co-occurrence. Higher abundance of offensive virulence factors in industrial wastewater and their strong correlation with pathogens containing ARGs suggest higher microbiological risk. These findings highlight the need to assess ARG acquisition by pathogens in the surface water of human-impacted environments where pathogens and ARGs may co-thrive.

Keywords: Pathogens, Antibiotic-resistance genes, Metagenomic analysis, Virulence factors, Health risk.

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