Biodegradation of pharmaceutical and personal care products

Adv Appl Microbiol. 2009;67:65-108. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2164(08)01003-4.


Medical treatments and personal hygiene lead to the steady release of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) into the environment. Some of these PPCPs have been shown to have detrimental environmental effects and could potentially impact human health. Understanding the biological transformation of PPCPs is essential for accurately determining their ultimate environmental fate, conducting accurate risk assessments, and improving PPCP removal. We summarize the current literature concerning the biological transformation of PPCPs in wastewater treatment plants, the environment, and by pure cultures of bacterial isolates. Although some PPCPs, such as ibuprofen, are readily degraded under most studied conditions, others, such as carbamazepine, tend to be recalcitrant. This variation in the biodegradability of PPCPs can be attributed to structural differences, because PPCPs are classified by application, not chemical structure. The degradation pathways of octylphenol by Sphingomonas sp. strain PWE1, ibuprofen by Sphingomonas sp. strain Ibu-2, and DEET by Pseudomonas putida DTB are discussed in more detail.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / metabolism
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • DEET / chemistry
  • DEET / metabolism
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Household Products*
  • Ibuprofen / chemistry
  • Ibuprofen / metabolism
  • Insect Repellents / chemistry
  • Insect Repellents / metabolism
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Phenols / chemistry
  • Phenols / metabolism
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Insect Repellents
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Phenols
  • octylphenol
  • DEET
  • Ibuprofen