Metagenomic profile of antibiotic resistance genes and mobile genetic elements in wastewater treatment plant

The scientific goal of the project is to research the co-occurrence antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and mobile genetic elements (MGEs), mainly integrase gene (intI1. intI2, intI3 genes) by metagenomic profiling of wastewater and its receiving water. It is assumed that the number of antibiotic resistance genes (β-lactams, aminoglycosides, trimethoprim, erythromycin) and their diversity are related to the presence of intI1. intI2, intI3 genes of mobile elements. Also, it is assumed to determine the dependence of the spread and diversity of the tested antibiotic resistance and mobile elements depending on the taxonomic structure of the microbial communities present in both WWTPs and receiver waters.

Research project methodology
The project will be implemented by a team of microbiologists, biochemists from the Institute of Ecology of Industrial Areas and molecular biology specialists, sanitation engineers and bioinformatics from the University of Warmia and Mazury.

In microbiological studies metagenomic approach will be used. Pyrosequencing will be applied to reveal bacterial community composition and Illumina high-throughput sequencing (HTS) will be used for profiling ARGs and MGEs. To evaluate the obtain results large-scale bioinformatic approach based on (taxonomic, functional, antibiotic resistance and integrase genes) using modern bioinformatics programs will be applied.

Expected impact of the research project on the development of science, civilization and society
Antibiotic resistance represents a significant global health problem due to the use and misuse of antibiotics, which favors the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance has involved extensive research in clinically relevant human pathogens. In the last years, antibiotics, antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistant genes can be found in almost all environments, and they are currently considered as emerging pollutants. Although antibiotic resistance studies have been focused on cultivable bacteria and/or indicator organisms in treated wastewater and receiving water, the vast majority of environmental bacteria cannot be cultured under standard laboratory conditions. As a results there is little information about how the discharge of wastewater effluents can affect bacterial communities and impact the prevalence of resistance genes in the environment. So far very little attention has been devoted to the simultaneous occurrence of antibiotic resistance genes and mobile genetic elements. WWTPs may contribute to the occurrence, spread and persistence of both antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the environment. Antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes in the aquatic environment have become an emerging contaminant issue, which has implications for human and ecological health. On the base of these premises the current project fits with the modern trend research related to understand of co-occurrence of antibiotic resistance genes and mobile genetic elements (MGEs) among the environmental microbiome. The present project contains research on diversity and ways of spreading antibiotic resistance among wastewater and its receiving water. Metagenomic analysis combined with high-throughput sequencing will use as promising culture-independent method of determining diversity and abundance of ARGs and MGEs in various environments. There is a need to undertake research to clarify the presence and spread of antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater from sewage treatment plants as the main emitter of these "pollutants". Knowledge of the origins and dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) is essential for understanding modern resistomes in the environment.


Project implementation period: 2018-2022

Total project cost: 1 113 656 PLN

Project Coordinator: Prof. Grażyna Anna Płaza, email:


Project has received funding from National Science Centre Poland at the Panel:
NZ9 - Fundamentals of applied life sciences and biotechnology, registration number: 2017/26/M/NZ9/00071



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