A doctoral thesis addresses occurrence of pharmaceutical compounds in wastewaters through a multidisciplinary approach

The occurrence of pharmaceutical compounds in wastewaters causes growing concern worldwide. First of all, the consumption of drugs has significantly increased during last decades. On the other hand, their potential detrimental effects on the environment have been demonstrated, and trace concentrations have been detected in water intended for human consumption. In spite of those facts, current conventional wastewater treatment plants are not able to remove these compounds efficiently.

In order to face this situation, LEQUIA researcher Neus Collado has adopted a clear multidisciplinary approach. Thus, her doctoral thesis “Multi-scale investigation of occurrence, fate, removal and biodegradation of pharmaceutical contaminants in wastewater treatment and river systems”, supervised by Dr. Joaquim Comas (LEQUIA, UdG) and Dr. Gianluigi Buttiglieri (ICRA), combines sampling campaigns to analyse current scenario with models and controlled experiments at different scales.

Firstly, the thesis demonstrates the variability of efficiency of conventional wastewater treatments, and quantifies pharmaceutical compounds removal when applying advanced processes like UV radiation. Secondly, it has been possible to model the behaviour of a selected drug and its transformation product. The role and usefulness of proteomic when investigating the possible proteins involved on the biodegradation pathways of certain pharmaceutical compounds have also been studied. Finally, the thesis also tackles the investigation of an antibiotic’s impact on the bacterial community performance, and the antibiotic resistance genes phenomenon.

To sum up, this work allows to progress on the comprehension of phenomena associated with the occurrence, treatment and degradation of pharmaceutical compounds, a problematic that is a matter of concern worldwide due the potential effects on the environment.

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