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Chemosphere. 2009 Sep;77(2):291-5. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2009.07.033. Epub 2009 Aug 14.

Influence of pH on the sonolysis of ciprofloxacin: Biodegradability, ecotoxicity and antibiotic activity of its degradation products.

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Department of Organic Chemistry, Ghent University, Belgium.


The presence of antibiotics in the aquatic environment has raised concerns due to the potential risk for the emergence or persistence of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are often poorly degraded in conventional wastewater treatment plants. In this study, sonolysis at 520 kHz and 92 W L(-1) was used for the degradation of the fluoroquinolone antibiotic ciprofloxacin. In a first experiment at pH 7, 57% of the ciprofloxacin (15 mg L(-1)) was degraded after 120 min of ultrasonic irradiation at 25 degrees C. pH proved to be an important parameter determining the degradation rate, since the pseudo first order degradation constant increased almost fourfold when comparing treatment at pH 7 (0.0058 min(-1)) and pH 10 (0.0069 min(-1)) with that at pH 3 (0.021 min(-1)). This effect can be attributed to the degree of protonation of the ciprofloxacin molecule. The BOD/COD ratio of the solutions, which is a measure for their biodegradability, increased from 0.06 to 0.60, 0.17, and 0.18 after 120 min of irradiation depending on the pH (3, 7, and 10, respectively). The solution treated at pH 3 can even be considered readily biodegradable (BOD/COD>0.4). The antibiotic activity against Escherichia coli (G-) and Bacillus coagulans (G+) of the treated solutions also reduced after sonolysis. The highest decrease was again found when irradiated at pH 3. In contrast, ecotoxicity of the solutions to the alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata increased 3- to 10-fold after 20 min of treatment, suggesting the formation of toxic degradation products. The toxicity slowly diminished during further treatment.

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