Organic micropollutants in aerobic and anaerobic membrane bioreactors: Changes in microbial communities and gene expression

Moustapha Harb, Chunhai Wei, Nan Wang, Gary L. Amy, Pei-Ying Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Organic micro-pollutants (OMPs) are contaminants of emerging concern in wastewater treatment due to the risk of their proliferation into the environment, but their impact on the biological treatment process is not well understood. The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of the presence of OMPs on the core microbial populations of wastewater treatment. Two nanofiltration-coupled membrane bioreactors (aerobic and anaerobic) were subjected to the same operating conditions while treating synthetic municipal wastewater spiked with OMPs. Microbial community dynamics, gene expression levels, and antibiotic resistance genes were analyzed using molecular-based approaches. Results showed that presence of OMPs in the wastewater feed had a clear effect on keystone bacterial populations in both the aerobic and anaerobic sludge while also significantly impacting biodegradation-associated gene expression levels. Finally, multiple antibiotic-type OMPs were found to have higher removal rates in the anaerobic MBR, while associated antibiotic resistance genes were lower.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)882-891
Number of pages10
JournalBioresource Technology
StatePublished - Jul 10 2016

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): FCC/1/1971-06-01, PID 7000000105
Acknowledgements: The authors thank Y. Mao for providing the Perl scripts used for OTU sequence analysis and gene database information extraction. This study was partially funded by the KAUST Academic Partnership Program grant (PID 7000000105) and by the KAUST Center Competitive Funding Program grant (FCC/1/1971-06-01) awarded to P.-Y. Hong.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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