Restriction of biosolids returning to land: Fate of antibiotic resistance genes in soils after long-term biosolids application

Xuechao Qin, Limei Zhai*, Benyamin Khoshnevisan, Junting Pan, Hongbin Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Although the utilization of biosolids in agricultural lands is widely considered as an effective way to improve resource reuse, the presence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) severely restricts biosolids returning to fields. A 12-year long-term experiment with different biosolids application rates (from 0 to 36 t ha−1 yr−1) was conducted to study the effect of biosolids application on shaping ARGs in soil. Biosolids application significantly increased ARGs abundance in the soil, except for MBS treatment (9 t ha−1 yr−1 biosolids application). The abundance of ARGs in soil did not increase linearly with the dose of biosolids applied, but they were significantly (P < 0.05) positively correlated. A total of 173 subtypes were detected, among them mobile genetic elements (MGEs), aminoglycoside, and multidrug resistance genes were the most dominant types. Except for MBS treatment, most of the ARGs detected were enriched in amended soils after long-term continuous biosolids application. Specifically, tetPA, sul1, mefA, and IS6100 were highly enriched in all amended soils. In addition, biosolids application increased soil nutrients and heavy metals, and changed the soil microbial community, all of which affected ARGs formation. But MGEs may be a greater factor for shaping ARGs profiles than soil properties. Overall, controlling the rate of biosolid application is the key to reducing the accumulation and horizontal transfer of ARGs in soils.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119029
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15. May 2022

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© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Antibiotic resistance genes
  • Biosolids
  • Heavy metals
  • Long-term
  • Soil physicochemical properties


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