Evaluation of the final effluents of some wastewater treatment plants in Amatole and Chris Hani district municipality of the Eastern Cape Province as sources of vibrio pathogens in the aquatic environment

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Certain areas in the world still depend on the receiving water bodies as sources of domestic water and for recreational purposes. The discharge of poor quality effluents from wastewater treatment plants can impact negatively on these water bodies, as they can act as vehicles for pathogens to the environment, posing a threat to humans if such water is used without precaution. Vibrio species are amongst those pathogens that can survive wastewater treatment processes, ending up in the environment, hence the aim of this study was to evaluate the final effluents of some wastewater treatment plants as sources of vibrio pathogens. Five wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) located in Amathole and Chris Hani District Municipalities in the Eastern Cape were used in this study. Samples were collected monthly from September 2012 – August 2013 and analysed using the standard membrane filtration technique. Yellow and green colonies on TCBS agar were enumerated as presumptive Vibrio species and expressed as CFU/100ml for each plant. Colonies were later picked based on their phenotypic characteristics, sub-cultured on fresh TCBS agar to ascertain purity. These presumptive isolates were then subjected to Gram staining and Oxidase test. Gram negative and Oxidase positive isolates were selected for further confirmation using Polymerised Chain Reaction (PCR). PCR was also employed for characterisation of Vibrio into three species viz V. parahaemolyticus, V. fluvialis and V. vulnificus. Antibiogram profile of the characterised species was then determined together with the presence of relevant antibiotic resistance genes Vibrio densities for the twelve month period ranged between 0 - 1.48×104 CFU/100ml with two of the plants located in East bank and Queenstown characterized by extremely high counts and one plant( Reeston) with very low counts. Three hundred presumptive Vibrio isolates were screened for identity confirmation. Of these, the dominating species found was V. fluvialis (28.6%) followed by V. vulnificus (28%) and the least was found to be V. parahaemolyticus (11.6%). The remaining unidentified 31.6% were suspected to belong to other Vibrio species not covered within the scope of this study. All the confirmed isolates i.e., V. parahaemolyticus, V. vulnificus and V. fluvialis were susceptible to imipenem, gentamicin and meropenem and resistant to only tetracycline. Between 60-100% of the V. parahaemolyticus isolates, 7.1% to 100 % V. vulnificus isolates and 2.5 to 100 % V. fluvialis showed resistances to polymixin B, sulfamethazole, erythromycin, penicillin G, chloramphenicol, trimethroprim and trimethroprim & sulfamethazole. Antibiotic Resistance Genes that were assessed included dfRA, SXT, floR and Sul2 varying in proportion with each species showing diversity in the Vibrio community. The dfR A gene was detected in all the V. parahaemolyticus isolates while floR gene was not detected in any of the isolates belonging to the three species. The distribution of sul2 gene cut across the species being 1% (1) in V. fluvialis, 3% (1) in V. parahaemolyticus and 4% (3) in V. vulnificus. The SXT gene was only determined in V. parahaemolyticus. It is clear that the final effluents of the selected plants are reservoirs for Vibrio pathogens as well as antibiotic resistance genes in the environment. The isolation of Vibrio from WWTP shows that this pathogen is in circulation in some pockets of the population. Therefore, wastewater treatment plants need to be properly monitored to ensure that they comply with set guidelines.