Emergence and Distribution Profiles of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Engineered and Natural Systems in Taiwan: Studies at the Nexus of Human-Environment Interactions

Project Details


Due to climate change and population explosion, a shortage of clean and safe water resources is becoming an increasingly serious problem worldwide. Reuse of treated domestic wastewater could be one of the solutions. Ultimately, it is aimed to use recycled wastewater in agricultural irrigation and even in drinking water. To meet this goal, the water quality of recycled wastewater has to be demanded absolutely safe at every level, both chemically and biologically. Given that wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) have been considered hot spots for the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), investigating the dynamics of ARB and ARG levels during the wastewater treatment process and their association with other generic water quality parameters will be one step closer to the goal of wastewater reuse. In addition, cases of infection with multi-drug resistant pathogens in environmental and clinical settings have increased drastically in recent years, which presumably is attributed to the abuse and improper use of antibiotics. Given that most of the pathogens are known to acquire resistance genes from environmental microbes, the concern of rapid development and accumulation of the antibiotic resistome in the environment especially the agricultural ecosystem has raised. Notably, heavy metals are considered the critical factors that highly likely promote the maintenance of environmental ARGs. Yet, this non-traditional route of antibiotic resistance development (i.e., heavy metal driven co-selection of antibiotic resistance) has not been extensively studied. As a result, in this study we will explore the emergence and distribution profiles of ARGs in units of different WWTPs, as well as in rice paddies irrigated with water from a creek flowing through the Jhongli Industrial Park and thus have been contaminated with varying levels of heavy metals. Both culture-dependent and –independent methods will be used to quantify levels of ARGs (by qPCR) and ARB (by traditional cultivation). Statistical analysis will be performed to probe the correlations of antibiotic resistance with wastewater quality and operation, as well as bioavailability of heavy metals in soil matrix. Results of this study can potentially provide insights into fate and proliferation of antibiotic resistance in both engineered and natural systems in Taiwan.
Effective start/end date1/08/2031/10/21

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • domestic wastewater treatment plants
  • antibiotic resistance genes
  • antibiotic resistance bacteria
  • heavy metal bioavailability in soil
  • co-selection
  • horizontal gene transfer


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