Tucker R. Burch, Michael J. Sadowsky, and Timothy M. LaPara (2014). “Fate of Antibiotic Resistance Genes and Class 1 Integrons in Soil Microcosms Following the Application of Treated Residual Municipal Wastewater Solids.” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (10), 5620-5627. DOI: 10.1021/es501098g.
Abstract: Substantial quantities of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) are discharged with treated residual municipal wastewater solids and subsequently applied to soil. The objective of this work was to determine the decay rates for ARGs and class 1 integrons following simulated land application of treated wastewater solids. Treated residual solids from two full-scale treatment plants were applied to sets of triplicate soil microcosms in two independent experiments. Experiment 1 investigated loading rates of 20, 40, and 100 g kg–1 of residual solids to a sandy soil, while experiment 2 investigated a loading rate of 40 g kg–1 to a silty-loamy soil. Five ARGs (erm(B), sul1, tet(A), tet(W), and tet(X)), the integrase of class 1 integrons (intI1), 16S rRNA genes, 16S rRNA genes of all Bacteroides spp., and 16S rRNA genes of human-specific Bacteroides spp. were quantified using real-time polymerase chain reaction. ARGs and intI1 quantities declined in most microcosms, with statistically significant (P < 0.05) half-lives varying between 13 d (erm(B), experiment 1, 100 g kg–1) and 81 d (intI1, experiment 1, 40 g kg–1). These kinetic rates were much slower than have been previously reported for unit operations used to treat wastewater solids (e.g., anaerobic digestion). This research suggests that the design and operation of municipal wastewater treatment facilities with the explicit goal of mitigating the release of ARGs should focus on using technologies within the treatment facility, rather than depending on attenuation subsequent to land application.