Removal of veterinary antibiotics from swine wastewater using anaerobic and aerobic biodegradation

Yuefei Han*, Linyan Yang, Xueming Chen, Yu Cai, Xinyue Zhang, Mengcheng Qian, Mao Xingkui, Huihui Zhao, Mei Sheng, Guomin Cao, Genxian Shen

*Corresponding author for this work

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High amounts of antibiotics, used in animal farms for the prevention of diseases, are released back into the natural environment with a possible risk of chronic toxicity to other organisms and the development of antibiotic-resistant genes. The antibiotics, including sulfonamides and β-lactams, detected in swine wastewater were between 99.2 and 339.3 μg/L. The typical on-site swine wastewater treatment process turned out to be inadequate, reflected by the high conventional contaminant and antibiotic residuals even under a long hydraulic residence time (HRT, around 2–3 months). The lab-scale combined anaerobic and aerobic biological process showed that anaerobic digestion was mainly responsible for chemical oxygen demand (COD) reduction and aerobic biodegradation contributed significantly to antibiotic removal, with overall removal efficiencies of 95% for COD and 92% for antibiotics under a short HRT of 3.3 days. The removal of selected antibiotics could be a combined result of biodegradation, the balance between adsorption and desorption, and the transformation between antibiotic metabolites and their parent antibiotics. The current work provides valuable insights into the appropriate selection and optimisation of biological processes for the treatment of typical wastewater with high COD and trace antibiotics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number136094
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Antibiotics
  • Swine wastewater
  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Aerobic biodegradation


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