Assessment of the Risks of Mixtures of Major Use Veterinary Antibiotics in European Surface Waters

Jiahua Guo, Katherine Selby, Alistair B A Boxall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Effects of single veterinary antibiotics on a range of aquatic organisms have been explored in many studies. In reality, surface waters will be exposed to mixtures of these substances. In this study, we present an approach for establishing risks of antibiotic mixtures to surface waters and illustrate this by assessing risks of mixtures of three major use antibiotics (trimethoprim, tylosin, and lincomycin) to algal and cyanobacterial species in European surface waters. Ecotoxicity tests were initially performed to assess the combined effects of the antibiotics to the cyanobacteria Anabaena flos-aquae. The results were used to evaluate two mixture prediction models: concentration addition (CA) and independent action (IA). The CA model performed best at predicting the toxicity of the mixture with the experimental 96 h EC50 for the antibiotic mixture being 0.248 μmol/L compared to the CA predicted EC50 of 0.21 μmol/L. The CA model was therefore used alongside predictions of exposure for different European scenarios and estimations of hazards obtained from species sensitivity distributions to estimate risks of mixtures of the three antibiotics. Risk quotients for the different scenarios ranged from 0.066 to 385 indicating that the combination of three substances could be causing adverse impacts on algal communities in European surface waters. This could have important implications for primary production and nutrient cycling. Tylosin contributed most to the risk followed by lincomycin and trimethoprim. While we have explored only three antibiotics, the combined experimental and modeling approach could readily be applied to the wider range of antibiotics that are in use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8282-8289
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental science & technology
Issue number15
Early online date21 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2016

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© 2016 American Chemical Society. This is an open access article published under an ACS AuthorChoice License, which permits copying and redistribution of the article or any adaptations for non-commercial purposes.

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