Removal of antibiotic-resistant genes during drinking water treatment: A review

Xiaowei Liu , Tuqiao Zhang , Kunyuan Lv , Qingxiao Lu , Lili Wang


Received October 20, 2020,Revised , Accepted December 21, 2020, Available online December 30, 2020

Volume 33,2021,Pages 415-429

Once contaminate the drinking water source, antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) will propagate in drinking water systems and pose a serious risk to human health. Therefore, the drinking water treatment processes (DWTPs) are critical to manage the risks posed by ARGs. This study summarizes the prevalence of ARGs in raw water sources and treated drinking water worldwide. In addition, the removal efficiency of ARGs and related mechanisms by different DWTPs are reviewed. Abiotic and biotic factors that affect ARGs elimination are also discussed. The data on presence of ARGs in drinking water help come to the conclusion that ARGs pollution is prevalent and deserves a high priority. Generally, DWTPs indeed achieve ARGs removal, but some biological treatment processes such as biological activated carbon filtration may promote antibiotic resistance due to the enrichment of ARGs in the biofilm. The finding that disinfection and membrane filtration are superior to other DWTPs adds weight to the advice that DWTPs should adopt multiple disinfection barriers, as well as keep sufficient chlorine residuals to inhibit re-growth of ARGs during subsequent distribution. Mechanistically, DWTPs obtain direct and inderect ARGs reduction through DNA damage and interception of host bacterias of ARGs. Thus, escaping of intracellular ARGs to extracellular environment, induced by DWTPs, should be advoided. This review provides the theoretical support for developping efficient reduction technologies of ARGs. Future study should focus on ARGs controlling in terms of transmissibility or persistence through DWTPs due to their biological related nature and ubiquitous presence of biofilm in the treatment unit.

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