Removal efficiencies of seven frequently detected antibiotics and related physiological responses in three microalgae species

Gabriele Frascaroli*, Joanne Roberts, Colin Hunter, Ania Escudero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The main objective of this study is to investigate the effect of mixtures of seven widely used human antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, clarithromycin, erythromycin, metronidazole, ofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole, and trimethoprim) on the growth, pH, pigment production, and antibiotics removal of three microalgal species (Auxenochlorella protothecoides, Tetradesmus obliquus, and Chlamydomonas acidophila). Batch assays were conducted with media with antibiotic mixtures at 10, 50, and 100 μg L−1 for each antibiotic. The three microalgae species effectively removed the antibiotics without any growth inhibition, even when exposed to the highest antibiotic concentrations. Biosorption was reported as the primary mechanism for ciprofloxacin, clarithromycin, metronidazole, and ofloxacin, with up to 70% removal, especially in A. protothecoides and C. acidophila. A. protothecoides, a species never investigated for antibiotic removal, was the only microalgae exhibiting bioaccumulation and biodegradation of specific antibiotics, including sulfamethoxazole. Furthermore, in media with the highest antibiotic concentration, all three species exhibited increased chlorophyll (up to 37%) and carotenoid (up to 32%) production, accompanied by a pH decrease of 3 units. Generally, in the present study, it has been observed that physiological responses and the removal of antibiotics by microalgae are interlinked and contingent on the antibiotic levels and types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14178-14190
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Early online date26 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Active removal
  • Biosorption
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Microalgae
  • Phycoremediation
  • Pigment overproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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