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Oral exposure to industrial effluent with exceptionally high levels of drugs does not indicate acute toxic effects in rats

Journal article
Authors Carolin Rutgersson
Lina-Maria Gunnarsson
J. Fick
Erik Kristiansson
D. G. Joakim Larsson
Published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Volume 32
Issue 3
Pages 577-584
ISSN 0730-7268
Publication year 2013
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology
Department of Mathematical Sciences, Mathematical Statistics
Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Infectious Medicine
Pages 577-584
Language en
Keywords Pharmaceutical production; Wastewater; Residual active pharmaceutical ingredient; Blood serum screening; Global hepatic gene expression
Subject categories Environmental Sciences, Environmental toxicology


The Patancheru area near Hyderabad in India is recognized as a key link in the global supply chain for many bulk drugs. A central treatment plant receives wastewater from approximately 90 different manufacturers, and the resulting complex effluent has contaminated surface, ground, and drinking water in the region. Ecotoxicological testing of the effluent has shown adverse effects for several organisms, including aquatic vertebrates, at high dilutions. In addition, a recent study of microbial communities in river sediment indicated that the contamination of antibiotic substances might contribute to the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance genes. In an attempt to start investigating how exposure to effluent-contaminated water may directly affect humans and other terrestrial vertebrates, rats were tube-fed effluent. Several pharmaceuticals present in the effluent could be detected in rat blood serum at low concentrations. However, results from exploratory microarray and quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays indicated no marked effects on hepatic gene transcription after 5 d of exposure. Clinical analysis of blood serum constituents, used as biomarkers for human disease did not reveal any significant changes, nor was there an effect on weight gain. The authors could not find evidence for any acute toxicity in the rat; however, the authors cannot rule out that was there an effect on weight gain higher doses of effluent or a longer exposure time may still be associated with risks for terrestrial vertebrates.

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