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Katharina Brotzmann


Centre for Organismal Studies

Abteilung Tierphysiologie / Entwicklungsbiologie

Im Neuenheimer Feld 504

Tel: +49-(0)6221/54-6254

Fax:: +49-(0)6221/54-6162

e-Mail: Brotzmann@uni-heidelberg.de





Project title:

PharmaSea: Presence,   behavior   and   risk   assessment   of pharmaceuticals in marine ecosystems

Short description:

Therapeutic drugs and their continuous development significantly increased the standard of living and represent one of the greatest benefits to modern society. However, by their consumption and improper disposal, as well as industrial and hospital discharges and wastewater treatment plants, pharmaceuticals are now increasingly being detected in natural ecosystems. First investigated in freshwater systems, they can now also be measured in marine environments.

Active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are recognized as important contaminants of emerging concern, but environmental risk assessment can be very complex; in fact, good quality hazard and exposure data are scarce or publicly not available.

With the continuous improvement of advanced analytical techniques, it is now possible to detect environmental APIs of different therapeutic classes such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants and antiepileptics with concentrations ranging from a few ng/L to hundreds of µg/L, but knowledge on fate and biological effects is still fragmentary. Thus, for the development of reliable risk assessment procedures for APIs, basic information such as uptake, bioaccumulation, and excretion kinetics of APIs in aquatic organisms are required in addition to toxicity and teratogenicity analysis, API-specific modes-of-action in non-target organisms and effect evaluations of API mixtures.

For this purpose, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) represents a versatile tool by providing multiple endpoints for the ecotoxicological assessment of pharmaceuticals such as toxicity studies in early life-stages, the characterization of chronic and subtle effects under ecotoxicologically relevant exposure scenarios, and, thereby, identification of metabolic pathways that play a dominant role in cellular responses to stress. The combination of several endpoints of this model system allows to define the most suitable biomarkers for the early detection of APIs. The results may be used to adjust prescription and disposal practices of domestic medicines but can also help to increase competitiveness of European pharma industries which invests in the environmental sustainability of its products.