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Evaluation of 16S next-generation sequencing of hypervariable region 4 in wastewater samples: An unsuitable approach for bacterial enteric pathogen identification

Greay, T.L., Gofton, A.W., Zahedi, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0165-3797, Paparini, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-1105-5184, Linge, K.L., Joll, C.A. and Ryan, U.M.ORCID: 0000-0003-2710-9324 (2019) Evaluation of 16S next-generation sequencing of hypervariable region 4 in wastewater samples: An unsuitable approach for bacterial enteric pathogen identification. Science of The Total Environment, 670 . pp. 1111-1124.

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Recycled wastewater can carry human-infectious microbial pathogens and therefore wastewater treatment strategies must effectively eliminate pathogens before recycled wastewater is used to supplement drinking and agricultural water supplies. This study characterised the bacterial composition of four wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) (three waste stabilisation ponds and one oxidation ditch WWTP using activated sludge treatment) in Western Australia. The hypervariable region 4 (V4) of the bacterial 16S rRNA (16S) gene was sequenced using next-generation sequencing (NGS) on the Illumina MiSeq platform. Sequences were pre-processed in USEARCH v10.0 and denoised into zero-radius taxonomic units (ZOTUs) with UNOISE3. Taxonomy was assigned to the ZOTUs using QIIME 2 and the Greengenes database and cross-checked with the NCBI nr/nt database. Bacterial composition of all WWTPs and treatment stages (influent, intermediate and effluent) were dominated by Proteobacteria (29.0-87.4%), particularly Betaproteobacteria (9.0-53.5%) and Gammaproteobacteria (8.6-34.6%). Nitrifying bacteria (Nitrospira spp.) were found only in the intermediate and effluent of the oxidation ditch WWTP, and denitrifying and floc-forming bacteria were detected in all WWTPs, particularly from the families Comamonadaceae and Rhodocyclales. Twelve pathogens were assigned taxonomy by the Greengenes database, but comparison of sequences from genera and families known to contain pathogens to the NCBI nr/nt database showed that only three pathogens (Arcobacter venerupis, Laribacter hongkongensis and Neisseria canis) could be identified in the dataset at the V4 region. Importantly, Enterobacteriaceae genera could not be differentiated. Family level taxa assigned by Greengenes database agreed with NCBI nr/nt in most cases, however, BLAST analyses revealed erroneous taxa in Greengenes database. This study highlights the importance of validating taxonomy of NGS sequences with databases such as NCBI nr/nt, and recommends including the V3 region of 16S in future short amplicon NGS studies that aim to identify bacterial enteric pathogens, as this will improve taxonomic resolution of most, but not all, Enterobacteriaceae species.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Western Australian State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2019 Elsevier B.V.
United Nations SDGs: Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
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