An ozone treatment system was investigated to analyze its impact on clinically relevant antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs). A concentration of 0.9 ± 0.1 g ozone per 1 g DOC was used to treat conventional clarified wastewater. PCR, qPCR analyses, Illumina 16S Amplicon Sequencing, and PCR-DGGE revealed diverse patterns of resistances and susceptibilities of opportunistic bacteria and accumulations of some ARGs after ozone treatment.
Molecular marker genes for enterococci indicated a high susceptibility to ozone. Although they were reduced by almost 99%, they were still present in the bacterial population after ozone treatment. In contrast to this, Pseudomonas aeruginosa displayed only minor changes in abundance after ozone treatment. This indicated different mechanisms of microorganisms to cope with the bactericidal effects of ozone.
The investigated ARGs demonstrated an even more diverse pattern. After ozone treatment, the erythromycin resistance gene (ermB) was reduced by 2 orders of magnitude, but simultaneously, the abundance of two other clinically relevant ARGs increased within the surviving wastewater population (vanA, blaVIM). PCRDGGE analysis and 16S-Amplicon-Sequencing confirmed a selection-like process in combination with a substantial diversity losswithin the vital wastewater population after ozone treatment. Especially the PCR-DGGE results demonstrated the survival of GC-rich bacteria after ozone treatment.