The bacterial antibiotic resistome (BAR) is one of the most serious contemporary medical challenges. The BAR problem in drinking water is receiving growing attention. In this study, we focused on the distribution, changes, and health risks of the BAR throughout the drinking water treatment system. We extracted the antibiotic resistance gene (ARG) data from recent publications and analyzed ARG profiles based on diversity, absolute abundance, and relative abundance. The absolute abundance of ARG was found to decrease with water treatment processes and was positively correlated with the abundance of 16S rRNA (r2 = 0.963, p < 0.001), indicating that the reduction of ARG concentration was accompanied by decreasing biomass. Among treatment processes, biofiltration and chlorination were discovered to play important roles in shaping the bacterial antibiotic resistome. Chlorination exhibited positive effects in controlling the diversity of ARG, while biofiltration, especially granular activated carbon filtration, increased the diversity of ARG. Both biofiltration and chlorination altered the structure of the resistome by affecting relative ARG abundance. In addition, we analyzed the mechanism behind the impact of biofiltration and chlorination on the bacterial antibiotic resistome. By intercepting influent ARG-carrying bacteria, biofilters can enrich various ARGs and maintain ARGs in biofilm. Chlorination further selects bacteria co-resistant to chlorine and antibiotics. Finally, we proposed the BAR health risks caused by biofiltration and chlorination in water treatment. To reduce potential BAR risk in drinking water, membrane filtration technology and water boiling are recommended at the point of use.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.