The extent of removal of pharmaceuticals by African-based wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is relatively unknown with various studies observing high concentrations in effluents. This is mainly due to WWTPs still utilising the traditional treatment methods which are known to be less effective. In this study, 15 selected antibiotics (amoxicillin, ampicillin, azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, erythromycin, gentamicin, metronidazole, norfloxacin, ofloxacin, penicillin, sulfamethoxazole, sulfapyridine, tetracycline and trimethoprim) were monitored in wastewater as it goes through sedimentation (primary and secondary), aeration and chlorination stages of a WWTP. Analytical method involved solid-phase extraction followed by liquid chromatographic determination. Removal efficiencies during sedimentation were generally positive with doxycycline achieving 80–95.8%, while negative removal efficiencies were observed for penicillin V (−46.4 to −17.1%) and trimethoprim (−26.2 to −18.9%). The aeration and agitation stage resulted in concentration enhancement for several antibiotics with seven of them ranging between −273 and −15.5%. This stage was responsible for the relatively low overall removal efficiencies in which only 4 antibiotics (doxycycline, tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, and erythromycin) experienced overall removal efficiencies above 50%. The recorded effluent concentrations ranging between 0.0130 and 0.383 ng/mL were translated to low potential for development of antibiotic resistance genes in the receiving environments while ecotoxicity risk was high for only amoxicillin, ampicillin and sulfapyridine. The study has provided an overview of the performance of common wastewater treatment processes in South Africa and hopes that more monitoring and environmental risk data can be made available towards drafting of antibiotic priority lists that cater for Africa.
- antibiotic resistance
- hospital wastewater