Health risk ranking of antibiotic resistance genes in the Yangtze River

Chunxia Jiang, Zelong Zhao, Hans Peter Grossart, Feng Ju, Yi Zhao, Geoffrey Michael Gadd, Ewa Korzeniewska, Yuyi Yang (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Antibiotic resistance is an escalating global health concern, exacerbated by the pervasive presence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in natural environments. The Yangtze River, the world's third-longest river, traversing areas with intense human activities, presents a unique ecosystem for studying the impact of these genes on human health. Here, we explored ARGs in the Yangtze River, examining 204 samples from six distinct habitats of approximately 6000 km of the river, including free-living and particle-associated settings, surface and bottom sediments, and surface and bottom bank soils. Employing shotgun sequencing, we generated an average of 13.69 Gb reads per sample. Our findings revealed a significantly higher abundance and diversity of ARGs in water-borne bacteria compared to other habitats. A notable pattern of resistome coalescence was observed within similar habitat types. In addition, we developed a framework for ranking the risk of ARG and a corresponding method for calculating the risk index. Applying them, we identified water-borne bacteria as the highest contributors to health risks, and noted an increase in ARG risks in particle-associated bacteria correlating with heightened anthropogenic activities. Further analysis using a weighted ARG risk index pinpointed the Chengdu–Chongqing and Yangtze River Delta urban agglomerations as regions of elevated health risk. These insights provide a critical new perspective on ARG health risk assessment, highlighting the urgent need for strategies to mitigate the impact of ARGs on human health and to preserve the ecological and economic sustainability of the Yangtze River for future human use.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100388
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Ecotechnology
Early online date3 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jan 2024


  • Antibiotic resistance genes
  • Coalescence
  • Habitat
  • Health risk
  • Yangtze River

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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