Distinctive hospital and community resistomes in Scottish urban wastewater: Metagenomics of a paired wastewater sampling design

Hannah C Lepper, Meghan R Perry, Bryan A Wee, David Wills, Hanne Nielsen, Saria Otani, Moray Simon, Frank M Aarestrup, Mark E J Woolhouse, Bram A D van Bunnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The wastewater microbiome contains a multitude of resistant bacteria of human origin, presenting an opportunity for surveillance of resistance in the general population. However, wastewater microbial communities are also influenced by clinical sources, such as hospitals. Identifying signatures of the community and hospital resistome in wastewater is needed for interpretation and risk analysis. In this study, we compare the resistome and microbiome of hospital, community, and mixed municipal wastewater to investigate how and why the composition of these different sites differ. We conducted shotgun metagenomic analysis on wastewater samples from eight wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), four hospitals, and four community sites in Scotland, using a paired sampling design. Cluster analysis and source attribution random forest models demonstrated that the hospital resistome was distinct from community and WWTP resistomes. Hospital wastewater had a higher abundance and diversity of resistance genes, in keeping with evidence that hospitals act as a reservoir and enricher of resistance. However, this distinctive 'hospital' signature appeared to be weak in the resistome of downstream WWTPs, likely due to dilution. We conclude that hospital and community wastewater resistomes differ, with the hospital wastewater representing a reservoir of patient- and hospital environment-associated bacteria. However, this 'hospital' signature is transient and does not overwhelm the community signature in the resistome of the downstream WWTP influent.

Original languageEnglish
Article number165978
Pages (from-to)1-50
Number of pages50
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date5 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Metagenomics
  • Wastewater
  • Sewage
  • Surveillance


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