Soil bacterial consortia and previous exposure enhance the biodegradation of sulfonamides from pig manure

Marina Islas-Espinoza, Brian J. Reid, Margaret Wexler, Philip L. Bond

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82 Citations (Scopus)


Persistence or degradation of synthetic antibiotics in soil is crucial in assessing their environmental risks. Microbial catabolic activity in a sandy loamy soil with pig manure using 12C- and 14C-labelled sulfamethazine (SMZ) respirometry showed that SMZ was not readily degradable. But after 100 days, degradation in sulfadiazine-exposed manure was 9.2%, far greater than soil and organic manure (0.5% and 0.11%, respectively, p < 0.05). Abiotic degradation was not detected suggesting microbial catabolism as main degradation mechanism. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism showed biodiversity increases within 1 day of SMZ spiking and especially after 200 days, although some species plummeted. A clone library from the treatment with highest degradation showed that most bacteria belonged to α, β and γ classes of Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes and Acidobacteria. Proteobacteria (α, β and γ), Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes which were the most abundant classes on day 1 also decreased most following prolonged exposure. From the matrix showing the highest degradation rate, 17 SMZ-resistant isolates biodegraded low levels of 14 C-labelled SMZ when each species was incubated separately (0.2–1.5%) but biodegradation was enhanced when the four isolates with the highest biodegradation were incubated in a consortium (Bacillus licheniformis, Pseudomonas putida, Alcaligenes sp. and Aquamicrobium defluvium as per 16S rRNA gene sequencing), removing up to 7.8% of SMZ after 20 days. One of these species (B. licheniformis) was a known livestock and occasional human pathogen. Despite an environmental role of these species in sulfonamide bioremediation, the possibility of horizontal transfer of pathogenicity and resistance genes should caution against an indiscriminate use of these species as sulfonamide degraders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-151
Number of pages12
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

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