Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Pharmaceutical transforming microbes from wastewater and natural environments can colonize microplastics

1 Department of Environmental Sciences, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
2 Department of Systems and Computational Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA

Special Issues: Impacts of Microplastics in the Urban Environment Conference

Treated wastewater effluents are a source of emerging contaminants, including microplastics and pharmaceuticals, that impact rivers and streams. As microplastics are transported from wastewater treatment into the environment, pharmaceuticals can sorb to the surface and also be colonized by microorganisms. To investigate the microbial communities that are important in pharmaceutical transformation on microplastic surfaces, we used a culture-based approach with naproxen as the model pharmaceutical. Microplastic beads served as a solid substrate for delivering naproxen to anaerobic cultures inoculated with either anaerobic digester sludge or sediment from a wastewater-impacted river. After demonstrating naproxen transformation activity within the cultures, we separated the bulk liquid culture from the colonized microplastic beads and transferred them into separate bottles of sterile media amended with naproxen. Naproxen transformation occurred in cultures that contained microbially-colonized microplastics. Results from DNA analyses of the microbial community from each treatment demonstrated a different microbial community structure on the colonized plastic compared to that of the planktonic cells, thus illustrating a selection of the microbial community by the microplastics. These findings demonstrate that the microbial community attached to microplastic beads can continue pharmaceutical transformation activity when the microplastics are transferred to new media, thus serving as a model for the potential transport of pharmaceuticaltransforming microbes from wastewater treatment to freshwater environments.
  Article Metrics


1. Mason SA, Garneau D, Sutton R, et al. (2016) Microplastic pollution is widely detected in US municipal wastewater treatment plant effluent. Environ Pollut 218: 1045-1054.    

2. Kolpin DW, Furlong ET, Meyer MT, et al. (2002) Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. Streams, 1999-2000: a national reconnaissance. Environ Sci Technol 36: 1202-1211.

3. Wu C, Zhang K, Huang X, et al. (2016) Sorption of pharmaceuticals and personal care products to polyethylene debris. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23: 8819-8826.    

4. Bakir A, Rowland SJ, Thompson RC (2014) Transport of persistent organic pollutants by microplastics in estuarine conditions. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 140: 14-21.    

5. Zettler ER, Mincer TJ, Amaral-Zettler LA (2013) Life in the "plastisphere": Microbial communities on plastic marine debris. Environ Sci Technol 47: 7137-7146.    

6. McCormick A, Hoellein TJ, Mason SA, et al. (2014) Microplastic is an Abundant and Distinct Microbial Habitat in an Urban River. Environ Sci Technol 48: 11863-11871.    

7. Chen X, Xiong X, Jiang X, et al. (2019) Sinking of floating plastic debris caused by biofilm development in a freshwater lake. Chemosphere 222: 856-864.    

8. Van Cauwenberghe L, Vanreusel A, Mees J, et al. (2013) Microplastic pollution in deep-sea sediments. Environ Pollut 182: 495-499.    

9. da Silva BF, Jelic A, López-serna R, et al. (2011) Occurrence and distribution of pharmaceuticals in surface water, suspended solids and sediments of the Ebro river basin, Spain. Chemosphere 85: 1331-1339.    

10. Wolfson SJ, Porter AW, Campbell JK, et al. (2018) Naproxen Is Transformed Via Acetogenesis and Syntrophic Acetate Oxidation by a Methanogenic Wastewater Consortium. Microb Ecol 76: 362-371.    

11. Wolfson SJ, Porter AW, Villani TS, et al. (2019) Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products can be Transformed by Anaerobic Microbiomes in the Environment and in Waste Treatment Processes. Environ Toxicol Chem 38: 1585-1593.    

12. Chang M (2015) Reducing microplastics from facial exfoliating cleansers in wastewater through treatment versus consumer product decisions. Mar Pollut Bull 101: 330-333.    

13. He Z, Minteer SD, Angenent LT (2005) Electricity generation from artificial wastewater using an upflow microbial fuel cell. Environ Sci Technol 39: 5262-5267.    

14. Healy JB, Young LY (1979) Anaerobic Biodegradation of Eleven Aromatic Compounds Anaerobic Biodegradation of Eleven Aromatic Compounds to Methane. Appl Environ Microbiol 38: 84-89.    

15. Owen WF, Stuckey DC, Healy JB, et al. (1979) Bioassay for monitoring biochemical methane potential and anaerobic toxicity. Water Res 13: 485-492.    

16. Kerkhof L, Ward BB (1993) Comparison of Nucleic Acid Hybridization and Fluorometry for Measurement of the Relationship between RNA/DNA Ratio and Growth Rate in a Marine Bacterium. Appl Environ Microbiol 59: 1303-1309.    

17. Wang Q, Garrity G, Tiedje J, et al. (2007) Naïve Bayesian classifier for rapid assignment of rRNA sequences into the new bacterial taxonomy. Appl Environ Microbiol 73: 5261-5267.    

18. Altschul S, Gish W, Miller W, et al. (1990) Basic local alignment search tool. J Mol Biol 215: 403-410.    

19. Lahti M, Oikari A (2011) Microbial transformation of pharmaceuticals Naproxen Bisoprolol, and Diclofenac in aerobic and anaerobic environments. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 61: 202-210.    

20. Hedderich R, Whitman WB (2006) Physiology and Biochemistry of the Methane-Producing Archaea. Prokaryotes 2: 1050-1079.

21. Pinnell LJ, Turner JW (2019) Shotgun metagenomics reveals the benthic microbial community response to plastic and bioplastic in a coastal marine environment. Front Microbiol 10: 1252.    

22. Kuever J, Rainey FA, Widdel F (2014) The family Desulfobacteraceae. The Prokaryotes 10: 45-73.

23. Leadbetter JR, Schmidt TM, Graber JR, et al. (1999) Acetogenesis from H2 plus CO2 by spirochetes from termite guts. Science 283: 686-689.    

24. Westerholm M, Roos S, Schnurer A (2010) Syntrophaceticus schinkii gen. nov., sp. nov., an anaerobic, syntrophic acetate-oxidizing bacterium isolated from a mesophilic anaerobic filter. FEMS Microbiol Lett 309: 100-104.

25. Kaufmann F, Wohlfarth G, Diekert G (1998) O-Demethylase from Acetobacterium dehalogenans Cloning, sequencing, and active expression of the gene encoding the corrinoid protein. Eur J Biochem 257: 515-521.    

26. Drake H, Küsel K, Matthies C (2006) Acetogenic Prokaryotes. Prokaryotes 2: 354-420.

27. Zhang L, Lyu T, Ramírez Vargas CA, et al. (2018) New insights into the effects of support matrix on the removal of organic micro-pollutants and the microbial community in constructed wetlands. Environ Pollut 240: 699-708.    

28. Langer S, Schropp D, Bengelsdorf FR, et al. (2014) Dynamics of biofilm formation during anaerobic digestion of organic waste. Anaerobe 29: 44-51.    

29. Habouzit F, Gévaudan G, Hamelin J, et al. (2011) Influence of support material properties on the potential selection of Archaea during initial adhesion of a methanogenic consortium. Bioresour Technol 102: 4054-4060.    

30. Huerta B, Rodriguez-Mozaz S, Nannou C, et al. (2016) Determination of a broad spectrum of pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors in biofilm from a waste water treatment plant-impacted river. Sci Total Environ 540: 241-249.    

31. Zhu Z, Wang S, Zhao F, et al. (2019) Joint toxicity of microplastics with triclosan to marine microalgae Skeletonema costatum. Environ Pollut 246: 509-517.    

32. Zinder SH, Koch M (1984) Non-aceticlastic methanogenesis from acetate: acetate oxidation by a thermophilic syntrophic coculture. Arch Microbiol 138: 263-272.    

33. Wüst PK, Horn MA, Drake HL (2009) Trophic links between fermenters and methanogens in a moderately acidic fen soil. Environ Microbiol 11: 1395-1409.    

34. Bengelsdorf FR, Gabris C, Michel L, et al. (2015) Syntrophic microbial communities on straw as biofilm carrier increase the methane yield of a biowaste-digesting biogas reactor. AIMS Bioeng 2: 264-276.    

35. Hossain MR, Jiang M, Wei Q, et al. (2019) Microplastic surface properties affect bacterial colonization in freshwater. J Basic Microbiol 59: 54-61.    

36. Kirstein I V, Kirmizi S, Wichels A, et al. (2016) Dangerous hitchhikers? Evidence for potentially pathogenic Vibrio spp. on microplastic particles. Mar Environ Res 120: 1-8.

37. Parrish K, Fahrenfeld NL (2019) Microplastic biofilm in fresh-and wastewater as a function of microparticle type and size class. Environ Sci Water Res Technol. 5: 495-505.    

38. Cheng L, Ding C, Li Q, et al. (2013) DNA-SIP Reveals That Syntrophaceae Play an Important Role in Methanogenic Hexadecane Degradation. PLoS One 8: 1-11.

39. Nobu MK, Narihiro T, Hideyuki T, et al. (2015) The genome of Syntrophorhabdus aromaticivorans strain UI provides new insights for syntrophic aromatic compound metabolism and electron flow. Environ Microbiol 17: 4861-4872.    

© 2020 the Author(s), licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Article outline

Show full outline
Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved