Microbial Removal of the Pharmaceutical Compounds Ibuprofen and Diclofenac from Wastewater

A.A.M. Langenhoff, N.S. Inderfurth, T. Veuskens, G. Schraa, M. Blokland, K. Kujawa-Roeleveld, H.H.M. Rijnaarts

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Studies on the occurrence of pharmaceuticals show that the widely used pharmaceuticals ibuprofen and diclofenac are present in relevant concentrations in the environment. A pilot plant treating hospital wastewater with relevant concentrations of these pharmaceuticals was evaluated for its performance to reduce the concentration of the pharmaceuticals. Ibuprofen was completely removed, whereas diclofenac yielded a residual concentration, showing the necessity of posttreatment to remove diclofenac, for example, activated carbon. Successively, detailed laboratory experiments with activated sludge from the same wastewater treatment plant showed bioremediation potential in the treatment plant. The biological degradation pathway was studied and showed a mineralisation of ibuprofen and degradation of diclofenac. The present microbes were further studied in laboratory experiments, and DGGE analyses showed the enrichment and isolation of highly purified cultures that degraded either ibuprofen or diclofenac. This research illuminates the importance of the involved bacteria for the effectiveness of the removal of pharmaceuticals in a wastewater treatment plant. A complete removal of pharmaceuticals from wastewater will stimulate water reuse, addressing the worldwide increasing demand for clean and safe fresh water.
Original languageEnglish
Article number325806
Number of pages9
JournalBioMed Research International
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • biodegradation
  • drugs
  • waste water
  • waste water treatment
  • bioremediation
  • waste water treatment plants
  • removal
  • surface water
  • drug residues
  • personal care products
  • activated carbon
  • batch experiments
  • aquatic environment
  • metabolites
  • systems
  • sludge
  • acid
  • transformation


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