My project is focused on identifying the genes responsible for sulfonamide degradation in Anaerobic Fluidised-bed Membrane Bio-Reactors (AFMBR) and any association to Direct Interspecies Electron Transfer (DIET).
Anaerobic wastewater treatment is the best suited wastewater treatment option for sustainability as it can contribute to all three components of the food-water-energy nexus. AFMBRs have shown impressive performance, achieving high effluent quality at times comparable to aerobic treatment while also producing enough biogas to reach net energy production. It is hypothesised that the presence of granular activated carbon (GAC) in the AFMBRs allows the bacteria to establish DIET relationships between members of the sludge community. This would enable "metabolic shortcuts" which lead to higher levels of activity.
Antibiotic pollution and increasing concerns about antibiotic resistance mean that wastewater treatment must rise to the challenge of removing these compounds. Antibiotic removal has been observed in a variety of wastewater treatment reactors, including AFMBR. Evidence has also shown that this removal is primarily being achieved by biological degradation i.e. bacterial metabolism. This implies the existance and activation of genes that facilitate antibiotic degradation pathways.
Using a combination of chemical and genetic investigatory methods and machine learning, this project will idenitify the degradation pathway of sulfonamides in AFMBRs and the associated genes.