Investigating the antibiotic resistance genes and their potential risks in the megacity water environment: A case study of Shenzhen Bay Basin, China

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Hebin Liang - , Tsinghua University (Author)
  • Jin Huang - , Tsinghua University (Author)
  • Yi Tao - , Tsinghua University (Author)
  • Uli Klümper - , Chair of Limnology (Author)
  • Thomas U. Berendonk - , Chair of Limnology (Author)
  • Kai Zhou - , Southern University of Science and Technology (Author)
  • Yu Xia - , Southern University of Science and Technology (Author)
  • Ying Yang - , Sun Yat-Sen University, Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory - Guanzhou (Author)
  • Yang Yu - , South China Agricultural University (Author)
  • Ke Yu - , Peking University (Author)
  • Lin Lin - , Tsinghua University (Author)
  • Xiaoyan Li - , Tsinghua University (Author)
  • Bing Li - , Tsinghua University (Author)


Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) constitute emerging pollutants and pose serious risks to public health. Anthropogenic activities are recognized as the main driver of ARG dissemination in coastal regions. However, the distribution and dissemination of ARGs in Shenzhen Bay Basin, a typical megacity water environment, have been poorly investigated. Here, we comprehensively profiled ARGs in Shenzhen Bay Basin using metagenomic approaches, and estimated their associated health risks. ARG profiles varied greatly among different sampling locations with total abundance ranging from 2.79 × 10−2 (Shenzhen Bay sediment) to 1.04 (hospital sewage) copies per 16S rRNA gene copy, and 45.4% of them were located on plasmid-like sequences. Sewage treatment plants effluent and the corresponding tributary rivers were identified as the main sources of ARG contamination in Shenzhen Bay. Mobilizable plasmids and complete integrons carrying various ARGs probably participated in the dissemination of ARGs in Shenzhen Bay Basin. Additionally, 19 subtypes were assigned as high-risk ARGs (Rank I), and numerous ARGs were identified in potential human-associated pathogens, such as Burkholderiaceae, Rhodocyclaceae, Vibrionaceae, Pseudomonadaceae, and Aeromonadaceae. Overall, Shenzhen Bay represented a higher level of ARG risk than the ocean environment based on quantitative risk assessment. This study deepened our understanding of the ARGs and the associated risks in the megacity water environment.


Original languageEnglish
Article number133536
JournalJournal of hazardous materials
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2024

External IDs

PubMed 38242018
ORCID /0000-0002-4169-6548/work/157319068
ORCID /0000-0002-9301-1803/work/161409840


Sustainable Development Goals


  • Antibiotic resistance genes, Megacity water environment, Metagenomics, Mobility, Risk assessment, Water, Genes, Bacterial, Bays, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics, Anti-Bacterial Agents/pharmacology, Sewage, China, Drug Resistance, Microbial/genetics