Elucidating the impact of microbial community biodiversity on pharmaceutical biotransformation during wastewater treatment.

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In addition to removing organics and other nutrients, the microorganisms in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) biotransform many pharmaceuticals present in wastewater. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between pharmaceutical biotransformation and biodiversity in WWTP bioreactor microbial communities and identify taxa and functional genes that were strongly associated with biotransformation. Dilution-to-extinction of an activated sludge microbial community was performed to establish cultures with a gradient of microbial biodiversity. Batch experiments were performed using the dilution cultures to determine biotransformation extents of several environmentally relevant pharmaceuticals. With this approach, because the communities were all established from the same original community, and using sequencing of the 16S rRNA and metatranscriptome, we identified candidate taxa and genes whose activity and transcript abundances associated with the extent of individual pharmaceutical biotransformation and were lost across the biodiversity gradient. Metabolic genes such as dehydrogenases, amidases and monooxygenases were significantly associated with pharmaceutical biotransformation, and five genera were identified whose activity significantly associated with pharmaceutical biotransformation. Understanding how biotransformation relates to biodiversity will inform the design of biological WWTPs for enhanced removal of chemicals that negatively impact environmental health.





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Stadler, Lauren B, Jeseth Delgado Vela, Sunit Jain, Gregory J Dick and Nancy G Love (2018). Elucidating the impact of microbial community biodiversity on pharmaceutical biotransformation during wastewater treatment. Microbial biotechnology, 11(6). pp. 995–1007. 10.1111/1751-7915.12870 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/28719.

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Delgado Vela

Jeseth Delgado Vela

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr. Jeseth Delgado Vela joined Duke University as an Assistant Professor in August 2023. Her work focuses on leveraging environmental biotechnology to improve urban water infrastructure. She integrates molecular tools and modeling to understand how microbial community interactions and dynamics affect engineered water treatment systems. Dr. Delgado Vela earned a Ph.D. and M.S. in Environmental Engineering and M.S. at the University of Michigan, and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining Duke, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Howard University. She was a recipient of the Ford Foundation Dissertation Award (2016), was named an Early Career Research Fellow by the Gulf Research Program (2022), and was awarded an NSF CAREER Award (2022).

An updated CV is available here: https://duke.box.com/v/jdv-cv-webversion

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