Patterns of protist diversity associated with raw sewage in New York City

Julia M. Maritz, Theresa A. Ten Eyck, S. Elizabeth Alter, Jane M. Carlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protists are ubiquitous components of terrestrial and aquatic environments, as well as animal and human microbiomes. Despite this, little is known about protists in urban environments. The ~7400-mile sewer system of New York City (NYC) collects human waste from ~8 million human inhabitants as well as from animals, street runoff, and groundwater, providing an ideal system to study these microbes. We used 18S rRNA amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomic sequencing to profile raw sewage microbial communities. Raw sewage samples were collected over a 12-month period from 14 treatment plants of the five NYC boroughs, and compared with samples from other environments including soil, stormwater, and sediment. Sewage contained a diverse protist community dominated by free-living clades, and communities were highly differentiated across environments. Seasonal differences in protist composition were observed; however, network analysis and functional profiling demonstrated that sewage communities were robust and functionally consistent. Protists typically associated with human and animal guts or feces were frequently detected. Abundance of these parasites varied significantly both spatially and temporally, suggesting that spikes could reflect trends in the source population. This underscores sewage as a valuable model system for monitoring patterns in urban microbes and provides a baseline protist metagenome of NYC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2750-2763
Number of pages14
JournalISME Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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