Biodegradation, photolysis, and sorption of antibiotics in aquatic environments: A scoping review

Irene Bueno Padilla, Huan He, Amy C. Kinsley, Sarah J. Ziemann, Lauren R. Degn, André J. Nault, Amanda L Beaudoin, Randall S. Singer, Kristine H. Wammer, William A. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The presence of antibiotics in surface waters is a potential driver of antibiotic resistance and thus of concern to human and environmental health. Key factors driving the potential impact of antibiotics are their persistence and transport in rivers and lakes. The goal of this study was to describe the peer-reviewed published literature on the photolysis (direct and indirect), sorption, and biodegradation of a selected group of antibiotic compounds following a scoping review methodology. Primary research from 2000 to 2021 was surveyed to compile information on these processes for 25 antibiotics from 6 classes. After compilation and assessment of the available parameters, the results indicate that information is present to predict the rates of direct photolysis and reaction with hydroxyl radical (an indirect photolysis process) for most of the selected antibiotics. There is insufficient or inconsistent information for including other indirect photolysis processes, biodegradation, or removal via sorption to settling particles for most of the targeted antibiotic compounds. Future research should focus on collecting fundamental parameters such as quantum yields, second-order rate constants, normalized biodegradation rates, and organic carbon or surface area normalized sorption coefficients rather than pseudo-first order rate constants or sorption equilibrium constants that apply only to specific conditions/sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number165301
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Antibiotic
  • Aquatic environment
  • Biodegradation
  • Photolysis
  • Scoping review
  • Sorption

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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