Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Can Be Transformed by Anaerobic Microbiomes in the Environment and in Waste-Treatment Processes

Sarah J. Wolfson, Abigail W. Porter, Thomas S. Villani, James E. Simon, Lily Y. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are emerging environmental contaminants that can be transformed by anaerobic microorganisms in anoxic environments. The present study examined 2 consortia, enriched under methanogenic and sulfate-rich conditions, that demethylate the phenylmethyl ether anti-inflammatory drug naproxen to 6-O-desmethylnaproxen. Both enriched consortia were also able to demethylate a range of phenylmethyl ether compounds of plant-based origin or used as PPCPs. Results from 16S rRNA gene sequencing showed that the 2 communities were very different despite sharing the same PPCP metabolism. In most cases, the demethylated metabolite was not further degraded but rather accumulated in the culture medium. For the expectorant guaifenesin, this resulted in a novel microbial metabolite. Furthermore, to our knowledge, this is the first report of methylparaben metabolism under methanogenic conditions. The wide range of phenylmethyl ether substrates that underwent O-demethylation in both methanogenic and sulfate-rich conditions suggests that there are potentially bioactive transformation products in the environment that have not yet been quantified. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;38:1585–1593.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1585-1593
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Volume38
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

Keywords

  • Anaerobic biodegradation
  • Biotransformation
  • Emerging pollutants
  • O-Demethylation
  • Pharmaceuticals

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