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Longitudinal Comparison of Bacterial Diversity and Antibiotic Resistance Genes in New York City Sewage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Susan Joseph, Thomas Battaglia, Julia M. Maritz, Jane M. Carlton, Martin J. Blaser

Original languageEnglish
Early online date6 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2019


King's Authors


Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a pressing health issue around the world, not only in health care settings but also in the community and environment, particularly in crowded urban populations. The aim of our work was to characterize the microbial populations in sewage and the spread of antibiotic resistance within New York City (NYC). Here, we investigated the structure of the microbiome and the prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes in raw sewage samples collected from the fourteen NYC Department of Environmental Protection wastewater treatment plants, distributed across the five NYC boroughs. Sewage, a direct output of anthropogenic activity and a reservoir of microbes, provides an ecological niche to examine the spread of antibiotic resistance. Taxonomic diversity analysis revealed a largely similar and stable bacterial population structure across all the samples, which was found to be similar over three time points in an annual cycle, as well as in the five NYC boroughs. All samples were positive for the presence of the seven antibiotic resistance genes tested, based on real-time quantitative PCR assays, with higher levels observed for tetracycline resistance genes at all time points. For five of the seven genes, abundances were significantly higher in May than in February and August. This study provides characteristics of the NYC sewage resistome in the context of the overall bacterial populations.

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