The objective of this research was to elucidate the fate of tetracycline resistant bacteria as a function of activated sludge organic loading rate and growth rate. Techniques employed to evaluate the effect of these factors on the fate of tetracycline resistant bacteria were: (1) resistant bacteria concentrations in the SBR biomass; (2) production of tetracycline resistant bacteria as measured by a combination of effluent efflux and intentional solids wasting; (3) net specific growth rates as determined by an SBR population balance; and (4) percentage of resistance as determined by normalising resistant concentrations to total concentrations. Based on these evaluation parameters, increases in organic loading and growth rate both resulted in amplification of tetracycline resistance. These trends were observed for activated sludge reactors loaded with typical municipal background tetracycline concentrations (∼1 μg/L) and those receiving influent augmented with 250 μg/L tetracycline. Accordingly, biological wastewater treatment plants, such as the activated sludge process, may be significant sources of antibiotic resistance to the environment.

This content is only available as a PDF.