Biological Mitigation of Antibiotic Resistance Gene Dissemination by Antioxidant-Producing Microorganisms in Activated Sludge Systems

Chong Yang Ren, En Ling Wu, Erica M. Hartmann, He Ping Zhao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Antibiotic resistance is the principal mechanism of an evergrowing bacterial threat. Antibiotic residues in the environment are a major contributor to the spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics cause bacteria to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can lead to mutagenesis and horizontal gene transfer (HGT) of ARGs; however, little is known about the mitigation of ARG dissemination through ROS removal by antioxidants. In this study, we examine how antioxidant-producing microorganisms inoculated in replicate activated sludge systems can biologically mitigate the dissemination of ARGs. Through quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), we showed that antioxidant-producing microorganisms could decrease the persistence of the RP4 plasmid and alleviate enrichment of ARGs (sul1) and class 1 integrons (intl1). Metagenomic sequencing identified the most diverse resistome and the most mutatedEscherichia coliARGs in the reactor that contained antibiotics but no antioxidant-producing microorganisms, suggesting that antioxidant-producing microorganisms mitigated ARG enrichment and mutation. Host classification revealed that antioxidant-producing microorganisms decreased the diversity of ARG hosts by shaping the microbial community through competition and functional pathway changes. Conjugative experiments demonstrated that conjugative transfer of ARGs could be mitigated by coculture with antioxidant-producing microorganisms. Overall, this is a novel study that shows how ARG enrichment and HGT can be mitigated through bioaugmentation with antioxidant-producing microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15831-15842
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 7 2021


  • activated sludge
  • antibiotic resistance genes
  • antioxidant-producing microorganism
  • dissemination
  • reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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