Cometabolic biotransformation and impacts of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac on activated sludge microbial communities

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Science of the Total Environment, 2019, 657 pp. 739 - 745
Issue Date:
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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. This study evaluated the removal of diclofenac (DCF) in activated sludge and its long-term exposure effects on the function and structure of the microbial community. Activated sludge could remove <50% of 50 μg/L DCF. The removal decreased significantly to below 15% when DCF concentrations increased to 500 and 5000 μg/L. Quantitative assessment of the fate of DCF showed that its main removal routes were biodegradation (21%) and adsorption (7%), with other abiotic removals being insignificant (<5%). The biodegradation occurred through cometabolic mechanisms. DCF exposure in the range of 50–5000 μg/L did not disrupt the major functions of the activated sludge ecosystem (e.g. biomass yield and heterotrophic activity) over two months of DCF exposure. Consistently, 16S rRNA gene-based community analysis revealed that the overall community diversity (e.g. species richness and diversity) and structure of activated sludge underwent no significant alterations. The analysis did uncover a significant increase in several genera, Nitratireductor, Asticcacaulis, and Pseudacidovorax, which gained competitive advantages under DCF exposure. The enrichment of Nitratireductor, Asticcacaulis, and Pseudacidovorax genus might contribute to DCF biodegradation and emerge as a potential microbial niche for the removal of DCF.
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