Bioavailability of Antibiotics at Soil-Water Interfaces: A Comparison of Measured Activities and Equilibrium Partitioning Estimates

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There are growing concerns that antibiotic pollution impacts environmental microbiota and facilitates the propagation of antibiotic resistance. However, the prediction or analytical determination of bioavailable concentrations of antibiotics in soil is still subject to great uncertainty. Biological assays are increasingly recognized as valuable complementary tools that allow a more direct determination of the residual antibiotic activity. This study assessed the bioavailability of structurally diverse antibiotics at a soil-water interface applying activity-based analyses in conjunction with equilibrium partitioning (EqP) modeling. The activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria of nine antibiotics from different classes was determined in the presence and absence of standard soil (LUFA St. 2.2). The addition of soil affected the activity of different antibiotics to highly varying degrees. Moreover, a highly significant correlation (p <0.0001) between the experimentally observed and the EqP-derived log EC50 (half-maximal effective concentration) values was observed. The innovative experimental design of this study provided new insights on the bioavailability of antibiotics at soil-water interfaces. EqP appears to be applicable to a broad range of antibiotics for the purpose of screening-level risk assessment. However, EqP estimates cannot replace soil-specific ecotoxicity testing in higher-tier assessments, since their accuracy is still compromised by a number of factors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)6555-6564
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 05.06.2018