Accumulation and expression of multiple antibiotic resistance genes in Arcobacter cryaerophilus that thrives in sewage

PeerJ. 2017 Apr 25;5:e3269. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3269. eCollection 2017.


We explored the bacterial diversity of untreated sewage influent samples of a wastewater treatment plant in Tucson, AZ and discovered that Arcobacter cryaerophilus, an emerging human pathogen of animal origin, was the most dominant bacterium. The other highly prevalent bacteria were members of the phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, which are major constituents of human gut microbiome, indicating that bacteria of human and animal origin intermingle in sewage. By assembling a near-complete genome of A. cryaerophilus, we show that the bacterium has accumulated a large number of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) probably enabling it to thrive in the wastewater. We also determined that a majority of ARGs was being expressed in sewage, suggestive of trace levels of antibiotics or other stresses that could act as a selective force that amplifies multidrug resistant bacteria in municipal sewage. Because all bacteria are not eliminated even after several rounds of wastewater treatment, ARGs in sewage could affect public health due to their potential to contaminate environmental water.

Keywords: Arcobacter cryaerophilus; Multidrug resistance; Sewage.

Grant support

This work was supported by Portland State University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.