Bengtsson-Palme J, Milakovic M, Švecová H, Ganjto M, Jonsson V, Grabic R, Udikovic-Kolic N
Water Res. 162 (-) 437-445 [2019-10-01; online 2019-07-04]
Antibiotic resistance is an emerging global health crisis, driven largely by overuse and misuse of antibiotics. However, there are examples in which the production of these antimicrobial agents has polluted the environment with active antibiotic residues, selecting for antibiotic resistant bacteria and the genes they carry. In this work, we have used shotgun metagenomics to investigate the taxonomic structure and resistance gene composition of sludge communities in a treatment plant in Croatia receiving wastewater from production of the macrolide antibiotic azithromycin. We found that the total abundance of antibiotic resistance genes was three times higher in sludge from the treatment plant receiving wastewater from pharmaceutical production than in municipal sludge from a sewage treatment plant in Zagreb. Surprisingly, macrolide resistance genes did not have higher abundances in the industrial sludge, but genes associated with mobile genetic elements such as integrons had. We conclude that at high concentrations of antibiotics, selection may favor taxonomic shifts towards intrinsically resistant species or strains harboring chromosomal resistance mutations rather than acquisition of mobile resistance determinants. Our results underscore the need for regulatory action also within Europe to avoid release of antibiotics into the environment.