Treated wastewater discharged into the environment acts as a disturbance of the natural microbial communities in terms of taxonomic composition and of functional gene pool, including antibiotic resistance genes. We tested whether stochastic and heterogeneous site-specific trajectories or generalities, potentially driven by deterministic processes, control the fate of allochthonous bacteria from anthropogenic sources and the persistence of their functional traits in freshwater. Finding generalities would allow the identification of wastewater treatments that could be effective in abating determinants of antibiotic resistance. We analysed the short-term response of native bacterial communities in waters exposed to the disturbance of wastewater at different dilutions, using a metagenomic approach that revealed both microbial community composition and the scope and abundance of the resistome that can pose indirect risks to human health. We found that the taxonomic composition of the communities after the disturbance was driven by case-specific stochastic processes, whereas the resistome had a deterministic trajectory, rapidly stabilising its functional traits with higher proportions of wastewater effluents, regardless of differences in taxonomic composition, richness of antibiotic resistance genes and of bacterial taxa, phenotypic features of the bacterial communities, and type of wastewater treatment. The observed deterministic proliferation of resistomes in freshwater bodies receiving wastewater effluents, suggests that this process may contribute to the global propagation of antibiotic resistance, and thus calls for new legislations promoting alternative tertiary treatments for the wastewater reuse, and targeting bacterial functional traits and not only bacterial abundances.
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