Removal of antibiotic resistance genes in an anaerobic membrane bioreactor treating primary clarifier effluent at 20 °C
Anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBR) play a key role in future plans for sustainable wastewater treatment and resource recovery because they have no energy-intensive oxygen transfer requirements and can produce biomethane for renewable energy. Recent research results show that they can meet relatively stringent discharge limits with respect to BOD5 and TSS when treating municipal wastewater primary effluent. Sustainable used water recovery plans should also consider removal of unregulated pollutants. Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) represent an important emerging contaminant due to public health concerns surrounding the spread of infections resistant to common antibiotics. Conventional activated sludge processes have demonstrated mixed results regarding ARG removal. The objective of this research was to determine the impact of an AnMBR on ARG removal when treating municipal primary clarifier effluent at 20 °C. AnMBR treatment resulted in 3.3 to 3.6 log reduction of ARG and the horizontal gene transfer determinate, intI1, copies in filtrate. Membrane treatment significantly decreased the total biomass as indicated by a decrease in 16S rRNA gene concentration. Microbial community analysis via Illumina sequencing revealed that the relative abundance of putative pathogens was higher in membrane filtrate compared to primary effluent although the overall bacterial 16S rRNA gene concentrations was lower in filtrate. Membrane treatment also substantially reduced microbial diversity in filtrate compared to anaerobic reactor contents.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Anaerobic Technology