Occurrence and toxicity of antibiotics in the aquatic environment: A review. Academic Article uri icon


  • In recent years, antibiotics have been used for human and animal disease treatment, growth promotion, and prophylaxis, and their consumption is rising worldwide. Antibiotics are often not fully metabolized by the body and are released into the aquatic environment, where they may have negative effects on the non-target species. This review examines the recent researches on eight representative antibiotics (erythromycin, trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, oxytetracycline, ofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and amoxicillin). A detailed overview of their concentrations in surface waters, groundwater, and effluents is provided, supported by recent global human consumption and veterinary use data. Furthermore, we review the ecotoxicity of these antibiotics towards different groups of organisms, and assessment of the environmental risks to aquatic organisms. This review discusses and compares the suitability of currently used ecotoxicological bioassays, and identifies the knowledge gaps and future challenges. The risk data indicate that selected antibiotics may pose a threat to aquatic environments. Cyanobacteria were the most sensitive organisms when using standard ecotoxicological bioassays. Further studies on their chronic effects to aquatic organisms and the toxicity of antibiotic mixtures are necessary to fully understand the hazards these antibiotics present.

published proceedings

  • Chemosphere

altmetric score

  • 3.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Kovalakova, P., Cizmas, L., McDonald, T. J., Marsalek, B., Feng, M., & Sharma, V. K.

citation count

  • 388

complete list of authors

  • Kovalakova, Pavla||Cizmas, Leslie||McDonald, Thomas J||Marsalek, Blahoslav||Feng, Mingbao||Sharma, Virender K

publication date

  • January 2020