Next-generation sequencing for surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and pathogenicity in municipal wastewater treatment plants

Curr Med Chem. 2022 Aug 2. doi: 10.2174/0929867329666220802093415. Online ahead of print.


The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and various pathogens among the top 10 health threats. It is estimated that by 2050, the number of human deaths due to AMR will reach 10 million annually. On the other hand, several infectious outbreaks such as SARS, H1N1 influenza, Ebola, Zika fever, and COVID-19 have severely affected human populations worldwide in the last 20 years. These recent global diseases have generated the need to monitor outbreaks of pathogens and AMR to establish effective public health strategies. This review presents AMR and pathogenicity associated with wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), focusing on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) monitoring as a complementary system to clinical surveillance. In this regard, WWTP may be monitored at three main points. First, at the inlet (raw wastewater or influent) to identify a broad spectrum of AMR and pathogens contained in the excretions of residents served by sewer networks, with a specific spatio-temporal location. Second, at the effluent, to ensure the elimination of AMR and pathogens in the treated water, considering the rising demand for safe wastewater reuse. Third, in sewage sludge or biosolids, since their beneficial use or final disposal can represent a significant risk to public health. This review is divided into two sections to address the importance and implications of AMR and pathogen surveillance in wastewater and WWTP, based on NGS. The first section presents the fundamentals of surveillance techniques applied in WWTP (metataxonomics, metagenomics, functional metagenomics, metaviromics, and metatranscriptomics). Their scope and limitations are analyzed to show how microbiological and qPCR techniques complement NGS surveillance, overcoming its limitations. The second section discusses the contribution of 36 NGS research papers on WWTP surveillance, highlighting the current situation and perspectives. In both sections, research challenges and opportunities are presented.

Keywords: SARS CoV-2.; antibiotic resistance genes; biosolids; pathogens; sewage treatment; wastewater monitoring.