Comparative analysis of metagenomes of Italian top soil improvers

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Biosolids originating from Municipal Waste Water Treatment Plants are proposed as top soil improvers (TSI) for their beneficial input of organic carbon on agriculture lands. Their use to amend soil is controversial, as it may lead to the presence of emerging hazards of anthropogenic or animal origin in the environment devoted to food production. In this study, we used a shotgun metagenomics sequencing as a tool to perform a characterization of the hazards related with the TSIs. The samples showed the presence of many virulence genes associated to different diarrheagenic E. coli pathotypes as well as of different antimicrobial resistance-associated genes. The genes conferring resistance to Fluoroquinolones was the most relevant class of antimicrobial resistance genes observed in all the samples tested. To a lesser extent traits associated with the resistance to Methicillin in Staphylococci and genes conferring resistance to Streptothricin, Fosfomycin and Vancomycin were also identified. The most represented metal resistance genes were cobalt-zinc-cadmium related, accounting for 15–50% of the sequence reads in the different metagenomes out of the total number of those mapping on the class of resistance to compounds determinants. Moreover the taxonomic analysis performed by comparing compost-based samples and biosolids derived from municipal sewage-sludges treatments divided the samples into separate populations, based on the microbiota composition. The results confirm that the metagenomics is efficient to detect genomic traits associated with pathogens and antimicrobial resistance in complex matrices and this approach can be efficiently used for the traceability of TSI samples using the microorganisms' profiles as indicators of their origin.

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