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Chemosphere. 2001 Aug;44(4):865-72.

Primary biodegradation of veterinary antibiotics in aerobic and anaerobic surface water simulation systems.

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  • 1Section of Environmental Chemistry, Institute of Analytical and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Royal Danish School of Pharmacy, Copenhagen. fi@mail.dfh.dk


The primary aerobic and anaerobic biodegradability at intermediate concentrations (50-5000 microg/l) of the antibiotics olaquindox (OLA), metronidazole (MET), tylosin (TYL) and oxytetracycline (OTC) was studied in a simple shake flask system simulating the conditions in surface waters. The purpose of the study was to provide rate data for primary biodegradation in the scenario where antibiotics pollute surface waters as a result of run-off from arable land. The source of antibiotics may be application of manure as fertilizer or excreta of grazing animals. Assuming first-order degradation kinetics, ranges of half-lives for aerobic degradation of the four antibiotics studied were 4-8 days (OLA), 9.5-40 days (TYL), 14-104 days (MET) and 42-46 days (OTC). OLA and OTC were degraded with no initial lag phase whereas lag phases from 2 to 34 days (MET) and 31 to 40 days (TYL) were observed for other substances. The biodegradation behaviour was influenced by neither the concentrations of antibiotics nor the time of the year and location for sampling of surface water. Addition of 1 g/l of sediment or 3 mg/l of activated sludge from wastewater treatment increased the biodegradation potential which is believed to be the result of increased bacterial concentration in the test solution. Biodegradation was significantly slower in tests conducted in absence of oxygen. Assessments of the toxic properties of antibiotics by studying the influence on the biodegradation rates of 14C-aniline at different concentrations of antibiotics showed that no tests were conducted at toxic concentrations.

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