Composting is considered to reduce the introduction of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) into the environment through land application of manure; however, the possible pollution of ARGs in the atmospheric environment of composting plants is unknown. In this study, 29 air samples including up-and downwind, composting, packaging, and office areas from 4 composting plants were collected. Dynamic concentrations of 22 subtypes of ARGs, class 1 integron (intl1), and 2 potential human pathogenic bacteria (HPB), and bacterial communities were investigated using droplet digital PCR and 16S rRNA gene sequencing, respectively. In this study, intl1 and 22 subtypes of ARGs (except tetQ) were detected in air of composting, packaging, office, and downwind areas. The highest concentration of 15 out of 22 subtypes of ARGs was detected in the packaging areas, and intl1 also had the maximum average concentration of 104 copies/m3, with up to (1.78 +/- 0.49) x10(-2) copies/16S rRNA copy. Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling of ARGs, potential HPBs, and bacterial components all indicated that the bioaerosol pollutant pattern in packaging areas was most similar to that in composting areas, followed by office, downwind, and upwind areas. The co-occurrence between ARGs and bacterial taxa assessed by Procrustes test, mantel test, and network analysis implied that aerosolized ARG fragments from composting and packaging areas contributed to the compositions of ARG aerosols in office and downwind areas. The results presented here show that atmoshperic environments of composting plants harbor abundant and diverse ARGs, which highlight the urgent need for comprehensive evaluation of potential human health and ecological risks of composts during both production as well as land application.
Bioaerosol;Antimicrobial resistance gene (ARG);Bacterial community;Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR);Composting;