Biocatalytic degradation/redefining “removal” fate of pharmaceutically active compounds and antibiotics in the aquatic environment

Muhammad Bilal, Syed Salman Ashraf, Damiá Barceló, Hafiz M.N. Iqbal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

149 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, the increasing concentration and persistent appearance of antibiotics traces in the water streams are considered an issue of high concern. In this context, an array of antibiotics has been categorized as pollutants of emerging concern due to their complex and highly stable bioactivity, indiscriminate usage with ultimate release into water bodies, and notable persistence in environmental matrices. Moreover, antibiotics traces containing household sewage/drain waste and pharmaceutical wastewater effluents contain a range of bioactive/toxic organic compounds, inorganic salts, pharmaceutically-active ingredients, or a mixture of all, which possesses negative influences ranging from ecological pollution to damage biodiversity. Moreover, their uncontrolled and undesirable bioaccumulation also poses a potential threat to target and non-target organisms in the environment. Aiming to tackle this issue effectively, various detection, quantification, degradation, and redefining “removal” processes have been proposed and investigated based on physical, chemical, and biological strategies. Though both useful and side effects of antibiotics on humans and animals are usually investigated thoroughly following safety and toxicity measures, however, their direct or indirect environmental impacts are not well reviewed yet. Owing to the considerable research gap, the environmental perfectives of antibiotics traces and their effects on target and non-target populations have now become the topic of research interest. Based on literature evidence, over the past several years, numerous individual studies have been performed and published covering various aspects of antibiotics. However, a comprehensive compilation on enzyme-based degradation of antibiotics is still lacking and requires careful consideration. Hence, this review summarizes up-to-date literature on enzymes as biocatalytic systems, explicitly, free as well as immobilized forms and their effective exploitation for the degradation of various antibiotics traces and other pharmaceutically-active compounds present in the water bodies. It is further envisioned that the enzyme-based strategies, for antibiotics degradation or removal, discussed herein, will help readers for a better understanding of antibiotics persistence in the environment along with the associated risks and removal measures. In summary, the current research thrust presented in this review will additionally evoke researcher to engineer robust and sustainable processes to effectively remediate antibiotics-contaminated environmental matrices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1190-1211
Number of pages22
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibiotics traces
  • Aquatic contaminants
  • Environmental impact
  • Enzyme bio-catalysis
  • Laccases detoxification
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Peroxidases
  • Removal strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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