Anaerobic biodegradation of pharmaceutical compounds coupled to dissimilatory manganese (IV) or iron (III) reduction

Wenbo Liu, Nora B. Sutton, Huub H.M. Rijnaarts, Alette A.M. Langenhoff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Pharmaceuticals in water have adverse effects on aquatic environment. Anaerobic pharmaceutical biodegradation coupled to dissimilatory manganese(Mn) (IV)- or iron(Fe) (III)-oxides reduction is potentially efficient but unexplored. In this study, batch experiments were performed using different Mn(IV) and Fe(III) species with a microbial inoculum pre-cultivated with 15 mM chemically-synthesized Mn(IV) and 10 mg L−1 metoprolol. Results show 26% caffeine and 52% naproxen are degraded with Mn(IV) as terminal electron acceptor and insignificant biodegradation for other pharmaceuticals tested. Reduction of Mn(IV) from drinking water treatment is coupled to anaerobic biodegradation of metoprolol and propranolol, resulting in removal efficiencies of 96% and 31%, respectively. The results indicate that adsorption contributes to the pharmaceutical removal during the first 10 days of incubation, while biodegradation is the main removal mechanism in the whole period. Fe(III) can also be used as electron acceptor in anaerobic pharmaceutical biodegradation. Over half of the added metoprolol is degraded with both chemically-synthesized Fe(III) and Fe(III)-citrate as terminal electron acceptors. However, this process did not occur when using Fe(III) from drinking water treatment or Fe(III)-based sorbents. This study indicates that anaerobic pharmaceutical biodegradation coupled to dissimilatory Mn(IV) or Fe(III) reduction is possible, and promising for application to cleaning wastewater treatment plant effluents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119361
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Early online date1 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020


  • Anaerobic conditions
  • Biodegradation
  • Mn(IV) or Fe(III) reduction
  • Pharmaceuticals


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