Incomplete aerobic degradation of the antidiabetic drug Metformin and identification of the bacterial dead-end transformation product Guanylurea

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Active pharmaceutical ingredients as well as personal care products are detected in increasing prevalence in different environmental compartments such as surface water, groundwater and soil. Still little is known about the environmental fate of these substances. The type II antidiabetic drug Metformin has already been detected in different surface waters worldwide, but concentrations were significantly lower than the corresponding predicted environmental concentration (PEC). In human and mammal metabolism so far no metabolites of Metformin have been identified, so the expected environmental concentrations should be very high. To assess the aerobic biodegradability of Metformin and the possible formation of degradation products, three Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) test series were performed in the present study. In the Closed Bottle test (OECD 301 D), a screening test that simulates the conditions of an environmental surface water compartment, Metformin was classified as not readily biodegradable (no biodegradation). In the Manometric Respiratory test (OEDC 301 F) working with high bacterial density, Metformin was biodegraded in one of three test bottles to 48.7% and in the toxicity control bottle to 57.5%. In the Zahn-Wellens test (OECD 302 B) using activated sludge, Metformin was biodegraded in both test vessels to an extent of 51.3% and 49.9%, respectively. Analysis of test samples by high performance liquid chromatography coupled to multiple stage mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS(n)) showed in the tests vessels were biodegradation was observed full elimination of Metformin and revealed Guanylurea (Amidinourea, Dicyandiamidine) as single and stable aerobic bacterial degradation product. In another Manometric Respiratory test Guanylurea showed no more transformation. Photodegradation of Guanylurea was also negative. A first screening in one of the greatest sewage treatment plant in southern Germany found Metformin with high concentrations (56.8μgL(-1)) in the influent (PEC=79.8μgL(-1)), but effluent concentration was much lower (0.76μgL(-1)) whereas Guanylurea was detected in a low influent and high effluent concentration (1.86μgL(-1)). These data support the experimental findings in the OECD tests and analytical results of other studies, that Metformin under aerobic conditions can bacterially be degraded to the stable dead-end transformation product Guanylurea.
Translated title of the contributionUnvollständige aerobe Degradierung des antidiabetischen Medikaments Metformin und Identifizierung des Bakterien Transformation Endproduktes Guanylurea
Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)765-773
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 10.2011

    Research areas

  • Chemistry - Environmental Chemistry, Aquatic environment, Biodegradation, Dead-end metabolite, Photodegradation, Toxicity, Water treatment
  • Sustainability Science