State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk Assessment, State Environmental Protection Scientific Observation and Research Station for Lake Dongtinghu (SEPSORSLD), National Engineering Laboratory for Lake Pollution Control and Ecological Restoration, Research Centre of Lake Environment, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Beijing, 100012, China. Electronic address: [Email]
The overuse and misuse of antibiotics could promote the emergence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and pose a potential risk to human health and the ecological environment. In this study, fifteen antibiotics and their corresponding ARGs in water, sediment and sewage treatment plant (STP) effluent were analysed to investigate their occurrence and correlation in the Yangtze River (Jiangsu section) for the first time. The concentrations of erythromycin-H2O (EM-H2O) (2.08-30 ng L-1) and ofloxacin (OFL) (290-8400 ng kg-1) were the highest in the water and sediment, respectively, and EM-H2O and clarithromycin (CLA) posed the highest risks to aquatic organisms. The concentrations of antibiotics in STP effluent were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than those in the water. Norfloxacin (NOR) was the most predominant antibiotic, with low removal efficiency (-38%-51%), in STPs; the concentration of NOR in the STP effluent was 4-6 orders of magnitude higher than that in the water. Moreover, the concentrations of antibiotics and their corresponding ARG abundance in downstream were higher than those in upstream, suggesting that STPs with high concentration levels might be an important source of river contamination. Additionally, the concentrations of antibiotics and the abundance of ARGs might increase after the sewage treatment process. The results also showed the prevalence of sul1 and sul2 in all the sampling sites. Significant correlations (p < 0.0001) were detected between int1 and sul1 and sul2, which resulted from the contribution of int1 to the propagation of ARGs. Overall, this study demonstrated the prevalence of antibiotics and ARGs and their inconsistent correlations in the Yangtze River (Jiangsu section) and provides support for further investigation of the occurrence and spread of antibiotics and ARGs.