Evaluation of the genotoxicity of municipal sewage effluent using the marine worm Platynereis dumerilii (Polychaeta: Nereidae)

Mutat Res. 1997 Jul 14;391(3):179-88. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5718(97)00070-3.


Samples of settled (primary) effluent were collected from a municipal sewage treatment works at Newton Abbot, Devon, UK, a site which discharges primary effluent via long sea pipeline into the English Channel (minimum of 200-fold initial dilution). Sewage samples were collected during the period February-April 1995 and were analysed for standard physico-chemical parameters (ammonia, chemical oxygen demand, conductivity, non-purgeable organic carbon and settled solids). Samples were also tested for cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, and for developmental effects in the embryo-larval stages of the marine worm, Platynereis dumerilii. Exposure to sewage concentrations of > or = 10% (v/v) in seawater at 20 +/- 1 degrees C led to a marked reduction in normal embryo-larval development (7 h EC50 values from 10% to 18% v/v, n = 5). There was also evidence of a simultaneous delay in the cell cycle progression (as determined by sister chromatid differential staining) following embryo-larval exposures to sewage concentrations of > or = 10% (v/v). Following the calculation of the Maximum Tolerated Dose (MTD), based on cytotoxic and developmental effects, cells from the same embryo-larvae were analysed for chromosomal aberrations (CAs). Results were consistent for all samples tested, demonstrating the absence of cytogenetic damage following the in vivo exposure of polychaete embryo-larvae to settled sewage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Mutagenicity Tests / methods*
  • Polychaeta / drug effects*
  • Polychaeta / genetics*
  • Polychaeta / growth & development
  • Sewage / adverse effects*
  • Sewage / chemistry
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange
  • United Kingdom


  • Sewage