Last Updated:

20/08/2020 - 16:10

The research article “Removal of antibiotic resistance genes in various water resources recovery facilities”, co-authored by METU member Prof. Bülent İçgen, has been published in Water Environment Research.

Water resources recovery facilities (WWTPs) are hotspots for antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and pose a significant threat to environments. Therefore, ARG removal efficiencies of WWTPs are of great importance. In this study, conventional activated sludge (CAS), biological nutrient removal (BNR), sequencing batch reactor (SBR), membrane bioreactor (MBR), package MBR, and WWTP with coagulation–flocculation and UV disinfection units were investigated in terms of their removal efficiencies on overall bacterial genes with 16S rDNA and seven ARGs including the genes aadA, blaCTX-M, cmlA, ermB, sul1, tetA, and qnrS corresponding to commonly used antibiotics aminoglycosides, β-lactams, amphenicols, macrolides–lincosamides–streptogramins, sulfonamides–trimethoprim, tetracyclines, and quinolones, respectively. Seasonal abundance of overall genes and ARGs in influents and effluents of each WWTPs was determined by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Membrane bioreactor and package MBR systems showed the highest removal efficiency up to 5-log reductions. Seasonal changes affected ARG removal efficiencies of BNR and CAS significantly (p < 0.05). The lowest log reductions were determined in summer for BNR and in both autumn and winter for CAS. The abundance of the genes increased in sludge treatment of CAS. In all WWTPs tested, ARG removal rates were correlated with the 16S rDNA gene removal (p > 0.05). The results elucidated that the removal mechanism was not ARG-specific. Practitioner points: Removal of genes in WWTPs was found to be not ARG-specific. MBR and package MBR systems had the highest gene removal efficiencies. Effluents of the MBR systems still retained up to 104 gene copy number/ml. Removal of genes in CAS and BNR systems showed seasonal variations. The copy numbers of the genes increased in the sludge of CAS.

Kucukunsal, S., & Icgen, B. (2020). Removal of antibiotic resistance genes in various water resources recovery facilities. Water Environment Research, 92(6), 911-921. doi:10.1002/wer.1286


Article access:

METU Author

Prof. Bülent İçgen

Web of Science/Publons Researcher ID: F-2958-2012 Scopus Author ID: 6602948754
About the author ORCID: 0000-0001-8114-4230


antibiotic resistance, ARG, ARG removal, ARGs in WWTPs, gene removal at WWTPs, micropollutants

Other authors:
Kucukunsal, S. (METU)

This work was supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) with the project number 119Y084.