Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 9832–9841 | Cite as

Fate of 14C-acetyl sulfamethoxazole during the activated sludge process

  • Chunnu GengEmail author
  • Yujia Zhuang
  • Valérie Bergheaud
  • Patricia Garnier
  • Claire-Sophie Haudin
Research Article


Compared to antibiotic parent molecule, human metabolites are generally more polar and sometimes not less toxic in wastewater. However, most researches focus on the fate of parent molecule. Therefore, behaviors of human metabolites are little known. Moreover, though much has been done on the fate of antibiotics during activated sludge process, there are still some limitations and gaps. In the present study, [Ring-14C] acetyl sulfamethoxazole (14C-Ac-SMX) was used to investigate the fate of human metabolite of SMX during activated sludge process at environmentally relevant concentration. At the end of 216 h, 3.1% of the spiked activity in the initial aqueous phase was mineralized, 50% was adsorbed onto the solid phase, and 36.5% still remained in the aqueous phase, indicating that adsorption, not biodegradation, was the main dissipation pathway. In the existence of microbial activities, accumulation into the solid phase was much higher, which was less bioavailable by chemical sequential extraction. The multimedia kinetic model simultaneously depicted the fate of Ac-SMX in the gas, aqueous, and solid phases, and demonstrated that microbially accelerated accumulation onto the solid phase was attributed to lower desorption rate from the solid phase to the aqueous phase, where adsorption rate was not the key factor. Therefore, Ac-SMX cannot be efficiently mineralized and remain in the aqueous or the solid phases. The accumulation in the solid phase is less bioavailable and is hard to be desorbed in the existence of microbial activities, and should not be easily degraded, and may lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes after discharge into the environment.


Antibiotics Human metabolite 14C-labeled technology Biologically accelerated adsorption Kinetic model 



In particular, we thank the manager of the WWTP, who made it possible to sample the activated sludge and provided the flocculant for the centrifugation step for free.

Funding information

We would like to thank the Foundation of Shanghai Institute of Technology (YJ2015-1) and the Environment and the Agronomy Division of INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research) for their grants.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ecological Technique and Engineering CollegeShanghai Institute of TechnologyShanghaiChina
  2. 2.UMR ECOSYS, INRA, AgroParisTechUniversité Paris-SaclayThiverval-GrignonFrance

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