Biodegradation studies of N4-acetylsulfapyridine and N4-acetylsulfamethazine in environmental water by applying mass spectrometry techniques

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2012 Mar;402(9):2885-96. doi: 10.1007/s00216-012-5751-y. Epub 2012 Feb 21.


This work evaluates the biodegradation of N(4)-acetylsulfapyridine (AcSPY) and N(4)-acetylsulfamethazine (AcSMZ), metabolites of two of the most commonly used sulfonamides (SAs) in human and veterinary medicine, respectively. Aerobic transformation in effluent wastewater was simulated using aerated fixed-bed bioreactors. No visible changes in concentration were observed in the AcSMZ reactor after 90 days, whereas AcSPY was fully degraded after 32 days of experiment. It was also demonstrated that AcSPY transformed back to its parent compound sulfapyridine (SPY). The environmental presence of these two metabolites in wastewater effluent had been previously investigated and confirmed, together with three more SA acetylated metabolites and their corresponding parent compounds, in 18 different wastewater treatment plants in Hesse (Germany). Sulfamethoxazole (SMX) and SPY were the two SAs detected most frequently (90% and 89% of the samples, respectively) and in the highest concentrations (682 ng L(-1) for SMX and 532 ng L(-1) for SPY). To conclude, hazard quotients were calculated whenever toxicity data were available. None of the SAs studied posed an environmental risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Molecular Structure
  • Sulfamethazine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Sulfamethazine / chemistry
  • Sulfapyridine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Sulfapyridine / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • N(4)-acetylsulfamethazine
  • acetylsulfapyridine
  • Sulfamethazine
  • Sulfapyridine