News Brief: Will Biodegradable Drugs Save Our Water?

Recent studies indicate that even highly treated effluent contains microcontaminants. A new study suggests that the solution to protecting water resources might lie not in a new wastewater treatment process, but in designing better drugs.
News Brief: Will Biodegradable Drugs Save Our Water?
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A team of researchers from Leuphana University in Germany is tackling the problem of pharmaceutical pollution in water resources. Because recent research has shown that even highly treated effluent contains trace micropollutants — typically from pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal health care products — the German team is attempting to solve the problem by designing biodegradable alternatives.

The team, led by Klaus Kummerer, began the research by modifying propranolol, a common high blood pressure medication, so that it would easily break down during the wastewater treatment process — particularly when exposed to ultraviolet light. According to the study abstract, the beta-blocker “has been reported as a nonbiodegradable and highly persistent chemical.”

The research paper, published in Environmental Science & Technology, details how researchers dissolved the modified drug in pure water and then exposed it to ultraviolet light for four hours, which yielded 16 derivatives. These compounds were then incubated in effluent at a local wastewater treatment plant and measured for consumption of oxygen and organic carbon.

The study, which is in the proof-of-principle stage, could launch further studies into biodegradable drugs and products. The German researchers believe this could be the start of innovative studies aimed at protecting global water resources.

“This approach promises a solution to the global challenge of micropollutants in the aquatic system even if there is no sewage treatment available,” the report says. “It may lead to new drug candidates useful for patients and industries, and can therefore be called a sustainable solution in the broadest sense.”

Source: Medical News Today


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