Biosorption and biotransformation behaviours of veterinary antibiotics under aerobic livestock wastewater treatment processes

Chih Hung Chen, Yi Chu Chiou, Chao Lung Yang, Jen Hung Wang, Wan Ru Chen, Liang Ming Whang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


To study the fate of veterinary antibiotics released from swine wastewater treatment plants (SWTP), 10 antibiotics were investigated in each unit of a local SWTP periodically. Over a 14-month period of field investigation into target antibiotics, it was confirmed that tetracycline, chlortetracycline, sulfathiazole, and lincomycin were used in this SWTP, with their presence observed in raw manure. Most of these antibiotics could be effectively treated by aerobic activated sludge, except for lincomycin, which was still detected in the effluent, with a maximum concentration of 1506 μg/L. In addition, the potential for removing antibiotics was evaluated using lab-scale aerobic sequencing batch reactors (SBRs) that were dosed with high concentrations of antibiotics. The SBR results, however, showed that both sulfonamides and macrolides, as well as lincomycin, can achieve 100% removal in lab-scale aerobic SBRs within 7 days. This reveals that the potential removal of those antibiotics in field aeration tanks can be facilitated by providing suitable conditions, such as adequate dissolved oxygen, pH, and retention time. Furthermore, the biosorption of target antibiotics was also confirmed in the abiotic sorption batch tests. Biotransformation and hydrolysis were identified as the dominant mechanism for removing negatively charged sulfonamides and positively charged antibiotics (macrolides and lincomycin) in SBRs. This is due to their relatively low sorption affinity (resulting in negligible to 20% removal) onto activated sludge in abiotic sorption tests. On the other hand, tetracyclines exhibited significant sorption behavior both onto activated sludge and onto soluble organic matters in swine wastewater supernatant, accounting for 70%–91% and 21%–94% of removal within 24 h, respectively. S-shape sorption isotherms with saturation were observed when high amounts of tetracyclines were spiked into sludge, with equilibrium concentrations ranging from 0.4 to 65 mg/L. Therefore, the sorption of tetracyclines onto activated sludge was governed by electrostatic interaction rather than hydrophobic partition. This resulted in a saturated sorption capacity (Qmax) of 17,263 mg/g, 1637 mg/g, and 641.7 mg/g for OTC, TC, and CTC, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139034
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Sept

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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