The impact of on-site hospital wastewater treatment on the downstream communal wastewater system in terms of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes

International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, Volume 222, Issue 4, May 2019, Pages 635-644.
Authors: 
Gabriela Paulus, Luc Hornstra, Nikiforos Alygizakis, Jaroslav Slobodnik, Nikolaos Thomaidis and Gertjan Medema

This study quantified antibiotic and antibiotic resistance gene (ARG) concentrations in hospital and communal wastewaters as well as the influents and effluents of the receiving urban wastewater treatment plants (UWWTP) in two Dutch cities. In only one city, hospital wastewater was treated on-site using advanced technologies, including membrane bioreactor treatment (MBR), ozonation, granulated activated carbon (GAC) and UV-treatment.

On-site hospital wastewater (HWW) treatment reduced gene presence of hospital-related antibiotic resistance genes and antibiotic concentrations in the receiving urban wastewater treatment plant. These findings support the need for on-site treatment of high-risk point sources of antibiotic resistance genes.

13 antibiotic resistance genes, Integrase Class 1 and 16S rRNA concentrations were quantified using multiplex quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) assays and the presence and/or concentration of 711 antibiotics were analyzed.

Hospital wastewater contained approximately 25% more antibiotics and gene concentrations between 0.4 log to 1.8-fold higher than communal wastewater (CWW). blaKPC and vanA could be identified as hospital-related genes and were reduced to under the limit of detection (LOD) during on-site treatment. Advanced on-site treatment removed between 0.5 and 3.6-fold more genes than conventional biological urban wastewater treatment (activated sludge). Advanced on-site treatment was able to eliminate 12 out of 19 detected antibiotics, while urban waste water treatment eliminated up to 1 (out of 21 detected). Different advanced treatment technologies were able to target different pollutants to varying extents, making sequential alignment more effective. MBR treatment was most efficient in antibiotic resistance gene reduction and ozonation in antibiotic reduction.

blaKPC could only be detected in the influent of the urban wastewater treatment plant receiving untreated hospital wastewater. Similarly, vanA was only consistently detected in this treatment plant. These results indicate a positive effect of on-site treatment of hospital wastewater on the communal sewage system.