Residual wastewater solids are a significant reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). While treatment technologies can reduce ARG levels in residual wastewater solids, the effects of these technologies on ARGs in soil during subsequent land-application are unknown. In this study we investigated the use of numerous treatment technologies (air drying, aerobic digestion, mesophilic anaerobic digestion, thermophilic anaerobic digestion, pasteurization, and alkaline stabilization) on the fate of ARGs and class 1 integrons in wastewater solids-amended soil microcosms. Six ARGs [erm(B), qnrA, sul1, tet(A), tet(W), and tet(X)], the integrase gene of class 1 integrons (intI1), and 16S rRNA genes were quantified using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The quantities of ARGs and intI1 decreased in all microcosms, but thermophilic anaerobic digestion, alkaline stabilization, and pasteurization led to the most extensive decay of ARGs and intI1, often to levels similar to that of the control microcosms to which no wastewater solids had been applied. In contrast, the rates by which ARGs and intI1 declined using the other treatment technologies were generally similar, typically varying by less than 2 fold. These results demonstrate that wastewater solids treatment technologies can be used to decrease the persistence of ARGs and intI1 during their subsequent application to soil.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by National Science Foundation Grant 0967176.