The impacts of triclosan on anaerobic community structures, function, and antimicrobial resistance

Patrick J. McNamara, Timothy M. Lapara, Paige J. Novak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Triclosan is a widespread antimicrobial agent that accumulates in anaerobic digesters used to treat the residual solids generated at municipal wastewater treatment plants; there is very little information, however, about how triclosan impacts microbial communities in anaerobic digesters. We investigated how triclosan impacts the community structure, function and antimicrobial resistance genes in lab-scale anaerobic digesters. Previously exposed (to triclosan) communities were amended with 5, 50, and 500 mg/kg of triclosan, corresponding to the median, 95th percentile, and 4-fold higher than maximum triclosan concentration that has been detected in U.S. biosolids. Triclosan amendment caused all of the Bacteria and Archaea communities to structurally diverge from that of the control cultures (based on ARISA). At the end of the experiment, all triclosan-amended Archaea communities had diverged from the control communities, regardless of the triclosan concentration added. In contrast, over time the Bacteria communities that were amended with lower concentrations of triclosan (5 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg) initially diverged and then reconverged with the control community structure. Methane production at 500 mg/kg was nearly half the methane production in control cultures. At 50 mg/kg, a large variability in methane production was observed, suggesting that 50 mg/kg may be a tipping point where function begins to fail in some communities. When previously unexposed communities were exposed to 500 mg triclosan/kg, function was maintained, but the abundance of a gene encoding for triclosan resistance (mexB) increased. This research suggests that triclosan could inhibit methane production in anaerobic digesters if concentrations were to increase and may also select for resistant Bacteria. In both cases, microbial community composition and exposure history alter the influence of triclosan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7393-7400
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'The impacts of triclosan on anaerobic community structures, function, and antimicrobial resistance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this