Catalogue of antibiotic resistome and host-tracking in drinking water deciphered by a large scale survey

Microbiome. 2017 Nov 28;5(1):154. doi: 10.1186/s40168-017-0369-0.


Background: Excesses of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), which are regarded as emerging environmental pollutants, have been observed in various environments. The incidence of ARGs in drinking water causes potential risks to human health and receives more attention from the public. However, ARGs harbored in drinking water remain largely unexplored. In this study, we aimed at establishing an antibiotic resistome catalogue in drinking water samples from a wide range of regions and to explore the potential hosts of ARGs.

Results: A catalogue of antibiotic resistome in drinking water was established, and the host-tracking of ARGs was conducted through a large-scale survey using metagenomic approach. The drinking water samples were collected at the point of use in 25 cities in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Africa, Singapore and the USA. In total, 181 ARG subtypes belonging to 16 ARG types were detected with an abundance range of 2.8 × 10-2 to 4.2 × 10-1 copies of ARG per cell. The highest abundance was found in northern China (Henan Province). Bacitracin, multidrug, aminoglycoside, sulfonamide, and beta-lactam resistance genes were dominant in drinking water. Of the drinking water samples tested, 84% had a higher ARG abundance than typical environmental ecosystems of sediment and soil. Metagenomic assembly-based host-tracking analysis identified Acidovorax, Acinetobacter, Aeromonas, Methylobacterium, Methyloversatilis, Mycobacterium, Polaromonas, and Pseudomonas as the hosts of ARGs. Moreover, potential horizontal transfer of ARGs in drinking water systems was proposed by network and Procrustes analyses.

Conclusions: The antibiotic resistome catalogue compiled using a large-scale survey provides a useful reference for future studies on the global surveillance and risk management of ARGs in drinking water. .

Keywords: Antibiotic resistome; Bacterial community; Drinking water; Horizontal gene transfer; Host-tracking; Public health.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • China
  • Drinking Water / analysis*
  • Drinking Water / microbiology*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / genetics
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Metagenomics / methods
  • Microbial Consortia / drug effects
  • Microbial Consortia / genetics
  • Public Health
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Water Purification


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Drinking Water