Environmental toxicology and chemistry

Occurrence and source apportionment of sulfonamides and their metabolites in Liaodong Bay and the adjacent Liao River basin, North China.

PMID 21351294


The presence of antibiotics in the environment is of great concern because of their potential for resistance selection among pathogens. In the present study we investigated the occurrence of 19 sulfonamides, five N-acetylated sulfonamide metabolites, and trimethoprim in the Liao River basin and adjacent Liaodong Bay, China, as well as 10 human/agricultural source samples. Within the 35 river samples, 12 sulfonamides, four acetylated sulfonamides, and trimethoprim were detected, with the dominant being sulfamethoxazole (66.6 ng/L), N-acetylsulfamethoxazole (63.1 ng/L), trimethoprim (29.0 ng/L), sulfadiazine (14.0 ng/L), and sulfamonomethoxine (8.4 ng/L); within the 36 marine samples, 10 chemicals were detected, with the main contributions from sulfamethoxazole (25.2 ng/L) and N-acetylsulfamethoxazole (28.6 ng/L). Sulfamethoxazole (25.9%), N-acetylsulfamethoxazole (46.6%), trimethoprim (22.9%), and sulfapyridine (1.4%) were the main chemicals from human sources, while sulfamonomethoxine, sulfamethazine, sulfaquinoxaline, sulfaguanidine, sulfadiazine, sulfanilamide, and sulfamethoxypyridazine were dominant in the animal husbandry sources, specifically, swine and poultry farms, and sulfamethoxazole (91%) was dominant in the mariculture source. A principal component analysis with multiple linear regression was performed to evaluate the source apportionment of total sulfonamides in Liaodong Bay. It was found that animal husbandry contributed 15.2% of total sulfonamides, while human sources contributed 28.5%, and combined human and mariculture sources contributed 56.3%. In addition, the mariculture contribution was 24.1% of total sulfonamides into the sea based on mass flux estimation. The present study is the first report that the environmental levels of sulfonamide metabolites were comparable to the corresponding parents; therefore, we should pay attention to their environmental occurrence. Source apportionment showed human discharge (60.7%) significantly contributed to these antibiotics in Liaodong Bay, which provides important information for environmental management.