Pathways and metabolites of microbial degradation of selected acidic pharmaceutical and their occurrence in municipal wastewater treated by a membrane bioreactor

José Benito Quintana, Stefan Weiss, Thorsten Reemtsma
Water Research 2005, 39 (12): 2654-64
Laboratory degradation tests with five acidic pharmaceuticals using activated sludge as inocculum under aerobic conditions were performed and microbial metabolites were analysed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Ketoprofen was partly mineralized as a sole source of carbon and energy and the metabolites determined by LC-MS suggest microbial ketoprofen degradation to proceed along the pathway known for biphenyls and related compounds. Bezafibrate, naproxen and ibuprofen were degraded only cometabolically whereas no transformation was obtained for diclofenac. Some biodegradation intermediates in these batch tests could be tentatively identified by means of LC-MS. The first step in microbial bezafibrate degradation appears to be the hydrolytic cleavage of the amide bond, generating well degradable 4-chlorobenzoic acid as one of the hydrolysis products. As previously found for mammals, ether cleavage and formation of desmethylnaproxen was the initial step in microbial degradation of naproxen. Two isomers of hydroxy-ibuprofen were detected as intermediates in the mineralization of ibuprofen. Laboratory studies suggest that naproxen and ibuprofen can be fully mineralized whereas more stable metabolites occur in microbial ketoprofen and bezafibrate transformation, that may deserve further attention. A LC-MS method for the trace analysis of these metabolites in water was developed and applied to municipal wastewater. Municipal wastewater treatment by a membrane bioreactor may gradually improve the removal of these pharmaceuticals.

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