The intensive use of antibiotics for medical treatment, veterinary or agriculture proposes resulted in the continuous release of antibiotics into the environment and subsequently the widespread of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance has become a serious threat to human health in terms of the reduced susceptibility of disease-causing microorganisms to antibiotics in medical treatment. There are increasing reports on the global spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Although concerns of ARGs are mainly focused on nosocomial infections from clinical settings, a growing body of evidences has suggested that environmental factors were also great contributors to the spread of ARGs.

This project aims to:

  1. Investigate the occurrence, diversity and abundance of ARGs in urban water cycle
  2. Obtain a fundamental understanding of the fate in Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTP) environments and reveal the role of WWTPs in the spread and dissemination of ARGs in the environment
  3. Develop control strategies for the elimination of ARGs by optimising wastewater or sludge treatment processes.


  • Advanced Water Management Centre
  • The University of Queensland

Project Outcomes

  • We investigated the broad-spectrum profiles of ARGs in activated sludge and in anaerobically digested sludge from a full-scale WWTP by using illumina high-throughput.
  • Our results indicated that 48 ARGs subtypes belonging to 10 ARGs types were identified in the activated sludge, while 53 subtypes belonging to nine ARGs types were detected in the digested sludge.
  • These findings increase our understanding of WWTPs as a hotspot of ARGs and mobile genetic elements, and contribute towards preventing their release into the downstream environment.


  1. Guo J.*, Li J., Chen H., Bond P., Yuan Z. Understanding of WWTP as a hotspot of antibiotic resistance genes and antibiotic resistance bacteria by metagenomic sequencing. The 13th IWA Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies, 13-16 June, 2016, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.

Project members

Professor Jianhua Guo

Professor and UQ Amplify Fellow
Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology

Dr Ji Lu

Postdoctoral Research Fellow & ARC DECRA
Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology

Other members

  • Dr Min Jin