Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) are emerging contaminants causing serious global health concern. Interventions to address this concern include improving our understanding of methods for treating waste material of human and animal origin that are known to harbor ARGs. Anaerobic digestion is a commonly used process for treating dairy manure, and although effective in reducing ARGs, its mechanism of action is not clear. In this study, we used three ARGs to conducted a longitudinal bench scale anaerobic digestion experiment with various temperatures (28, 36, 44, and 52ºC) in triplicate using fresh dairy manure for 30 days to evaluate the reduction of gene abundance. Three ARGs and two mobile genetic elements (MGEs) were studied: sulfonamide resistance gene (sulII), tetracycline resistance genes (tetW), macrolide-lincosamide-streptogramin B (MLSB) superfamily resistance genes (ermF), class 1 integrase gene (intI1), and transposase gene (tnpA). Genes were quantified by real-time quantitative PCR. Results show that the thermophilic anaerobic digestion (52ºC) significantly reduced (p < 0.05) the absolute abundance of sulII (95%), intI1 (95%), tnpA (77%) and 16S rRNA gene (76%) after 30 days of digestion. A modified Collins–Selleck model was used to fit the decay curve, and results suggest that the gene reduction during the startup phase of anaerobic digestion (first 5 days) was faster than the later stage, and reductions in the first five days were more than 50% for most genes.
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