Antibiotics in surface water of East and Southeast Asian countries: A focused review on contamination status, pollution sources, potential risks, and future perspectives

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Apr 10;764:142865. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142865. Epub 2020 Oct 9.


This review provides focused insights into the contamination status, sources, and ecological risks associated with multiple classes of antibiotics in surface water from the East and Southeast Asia based on publications over the period 2007 to 2020. Antibiotics are ubiquitous in surface water of these countries with concentrations ranging from <1 ng/L to hundreds μg/L and median values from 10 to 100 ng/L. Wider ranges and higher maximum concentrations of certain antibiotics were found in surface water of the East Asian countries like China and South Korea than in the Southeast Asian nations. Environmental behavior and fate of antibiotics in surface water is discussed. The reviewed occurrence of antibiotics in their sources suggests that effluent from wastewater treatment plants, wastewater from aquaculture and livestock production activities, and untreated urban sewage are principal sources of antibiotics in surface water. Ecological risks associated with antibiotic residues were estimated for aquatic organisms and the prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes and antibiotic-resistant bacteria were reviewed. Such findings underline the need for synergistic efforts from scientists, engineers, policy makers, government managers, entrepreneurs, and communities to manage and reduce the burden of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in water bodies of East and Southeast Asian countries.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Asian countries; Pollution sources; Risk; Surface water.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / analysis
  • Asia, Eastern
  • Asia, Southeastern
  • China
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Republic of Korea
  • Wastewater
  • Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Waste Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water