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Pharmaceutical Antibiotic Compounds In Soils – A Review

S. Thiele-Bruhn
Published 2003 · Chemistry

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Antibiotics are highly effective, bioactive substances. As a result of their consumption, excretion, and persistence, they are disseminated mostly via excrements and enter the soils and other environmental compartments. Resulting residual concentrations in soils range from a few μg upto g kg–1 and correspond to those found for pesticides. Numerous antibiotic molecules comprise of a non-polar core combined with polar functional moieties. Many antibiotics are amphiphilic or amphoteric and ionize. However, physicochemical properties vary widely among compounds from the various structural classes. Existing analytical methods for environmental samples often combine an extraction with acidic buffered solvents and the use of LC-MS for determination. In soils, adsorption of antibiotics to the organic and mineral exchange sites is mostly due to charge transfer and ion interactions and not to hydrophobic partitioning. Sorption is strongly influenced by the pH of the medium and governs the mobility and transport of the antibiotics. In particular for the strongly adsorbed antibiotics, fast leaching through soils by macropore or preferential transport facilitated by dissolved soil colloids seems to be the major transport process. Antibiotics of numerous classes are photodegraded. However, on soil surfaces this process if of minor influence. Compared to this, biotransformation yields a more effective degradation and inactivation of antibiotics. However, some metabolites still comprise of an antibiotic potency. Degradation of antibiotics is hampered by fixation to the soil matrix; persisting antibiotics were already determined in soils. Effects on soil organisms are very diverse, although all antibiotics are highly bioactive. The absence of effects might in parts be due to a lack of suitable test methods. However, dose and persistence time related effects especially on soil microorganisms are often observed that might cause shifts of the microbial community. Significant effects on soil fauna were only determined for anthelmintics. Due to the antibiotic effect, resistance in soil microorganisms can be provoked by antibiotics. Additionally, the administration of antibiotics mostly causes the formation of resistant microorganisms within the treated body. Hence, resistant microorganisms reach directly the soils with contaminated excrements. When pathogens are resistant or acquire resistance from commensal microorganisms via gene transfer, humans and animals are endangered to suffer from infections that cannot be treated with pharmacotherapy. The uptake into plants even of mobile antibiotics is small. However, effects on plant growth were determined for some species and antibiotics.

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