22 representative antibiotics, including 8 quinolones (QNs), 9 sulfonamides (SAs), and 5 macrolides (MCs) were selected to investigate their occurrence and removal efficiencies in a Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) and their distribution in the receiving water of the Chaobai River in Beijing, China. Water quality monitoring was performed in an integrated way at different selected points in the WWTP to explore the potential mechanism of antibiotics removal during wastewater treatment. Water quality of the Chaobai River was also analyzed to examine environmental distribution in a river ecosystem. The results showed that within all the 22 compounds examined, 10 antibiotics were quantified in wastewater influent, 10 in effluent, and 7 in river. Sulfadiazine (SDZ, 396 ng/L) and Sulfamethazine (SMZ, 382 ng/L) were the dominating antibiotics in the influent. Both the conventional treatment and advanced Biological Aerated Filter (BAF) system was important for the removal of antibiotics from the wastewater. And the concentrations of selected antibiotics were ranged from 0-41.8 ng/L in the effluent-receiving river. Despite the fact that the concentrations were reduced more than 50% compared to effluent concentrations, WWTP discharge was still regarded as a dominant point-source input of antibiotics into the Chaobai River.
Antibiotics are a group of substances potentially harmful to the environment. They can play a role in bacterial resistance transfer among pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria. In this experiment three representatives of medically important chemotherapeutics, confirmed to be present in high concentrations in wastewater treatment plants with HPLC analysis were used: erythromycin, sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim. Erythromycin concentration in activated sludge was not higher than 20 ng L−1. N-acetylo-sulfamethoxazole concentration was 3349 ± 719 in winter and 2933 ± 429 ng L−1 in summer. Trimethoprim was present in wastewater at concentrations 400 ± 22 and 364 ± 60 ng L−1, respectively in winter and summer. Due to a wide variety of PCR-detectable resistance mechanisms towards these substances, the most common found in literature was chosen. For erythromycin: erm and mef genes, for sulfamethoxazole: sul1, sul2, sul3 genes, in the case of trimethoprim resistance dhfrA1 and dhfr14 were used in this study. The presence of resistance genes were analyzed in pure strains isolated from activated sludge and in the activated sludge sample itself. The research revealed that the value of minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) did not correspond with the expected presence of more than one resistance mechanisms. Most of the isolates possessed only one of the genes responsible for a particular chemotherapeutic resistance. It was confirmed that it is possible to monitor the presence of resistance genes directly in activated sludge using PCR. Due to the limited isolates number used in the experiment these results should be regarded as preliminary.