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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Profiles of environmental antibiotic resistomes in the urban aquatic recipients of Sweden using high-throughput quantitative PCR analysis

Lai, Foon Yin; Muziasari, Windi; Virta, Marko; Wiberg, Karin; Ahrens, Lutz


Antibiotic resistance in aquatic ecosystems presents an environmental health issue worldwide. Urban recipient water quality is susceptible to effluent discharges with antibiotic resistance contaminants and needs to be protected, particularly for those as sources of drinking water production. Knowledge on aquatic resistome profiles in downstream of wastewater treatment plants allows a better understanding of the extent to which antibiotic resistance contaminants emerge and spread in recipient waters, but such information remains very limited in Sweden. The key objective of this study was to determine the resistome profiles of numerous antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), mobile genetic elements (MGEs) and other genes in urban recipient water systems connected to Sweden's major drinking water reservoir. This was achieved through analysis of surface water samples for 296 genes using high-throughput quantitative PCR arrays. A total of 167 genes were detected in at least one of the samples, including 150 ARGs conferring resistance to 11 classes of antibiotics, 7 integrase MGEs and 9 other genes. There was a spatial difference in the resistome profiles with the greatest average relative abundance of resistance genes observed in the water body of Västerås followed by Uppsala, Stockholm and Eskilstuna, as similar to the general pattern of the antibiotic sales for these regions. ARGs against β-lactams and sulfonamides showed the highest average relative abundance in the studied water bodies, while vancomycin resistance genes were only found in the Uppsala water environment. Generally, the recipient water bodies were detected with higher numbers of genes and greater relative abundances as compared to the upstream sites. Anthropogenic pollution, i.e., wastewater discharge, in the recipient water was also reflected by the finding of intI, sul1 and crAssphage. Overall, this study provided the first quantitative assessment of aquatic environmental resistomes in Sweden, highlighting the widespread of antibiotic resistance contaminants in urban recipient waters.


Emerging contaminants; Antibiotic resistance genes; Mobile genetic elements; Antimicrobial resistance; Surface water

Published in

Environmental Pollution
2021, Volume: 287, article number: 117651