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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Composition and Spatial Patterns of Bacterial Virulence Factors and Antibiotic Resistance Genes in 19 Wastewater Treatment Plants

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Bacterial pathogenicity and antibiotic resistance are of concern for environmental safety and public health. Accumulating evidence suggests that wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are as an important sink and source of pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Virulence genes (encoding virulence factors) are good indicators for bacterial pathogenic potentials. To achieve a comprehensive understanding of bacterial pathogenic potentials and antibiotic resistance in WWTPs, bacterial virulence genes and ARGs in 19 WWTPs covering a majority of latitudinal zones of China were surveyed by using GeoChip 4.2. A total of 1610 genes covering 13 virulence factors and 1903 genes belonging to 11 ARG families were detected respectively. The bacterial virulence genes exhibited significant spatial distribution patterns of a latitudinal biodiversity gradient and a distance-decay relationship across China. Moreover, virulence genes tended to coexist with ARGs as shown by their strongly positive associations. In addition, key environmental factors shaping the overall virulence gene structure were identified. This study profiles the occurrence, composition and distribution of virulence genes and ARGs in current WWTPs in China, and uncovers spatial patterns and important environmental variables shaping their structure, which may provide the basis for further studies of bacterial virulence factors and antibiotic resistance in WWTPs.

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