Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

Do antibiotics have environmental side-effects? Impact of synthetic antibiotics on biogeochemical processes

Abstract : Antibiotic use in the early 1900 vastly improved human health but at the same time started an arms race of antibiotic resistance. The widespread use of antibiotics has resulted in ubiquitous trace concentrations of many antibiotics in most environments. Little is known about the impact of these antibiotics on microbial processes or “non-target” organisms. This mini-review summarizes our knowledge of the effect of synthetically produced antibiotics on microorganisms involved in biogeochemical cycling. We found only 31 articles that dealt with the effects of antibiotics on such processes in soil, sediment, or freshwater. We compare the processes, antibiotics, concentration range, source, environment, and experimental approach of these studies. Examining the effects of antibiotics on biogeochemical processes should involve environmentally relevant concentrations (instead of therapeutic), chronic exposure (versus acute), and monitoring of the administered antibiotics. Furthermore, the lack of standardized tests hinders generalizations regarding the effects of antibiotics on biogeochemical processes. We investigated the effects of antibiotics on biogeochemical N cycling, specifically nitrification, denitrification, and anammox. We found that environmentally relevant concentrations of fluoroquinolones and sulfonamides could partially inhibit denitrification. So far, the only documented effects of antibiotic inhibitions were at therapeutic doses on anammox activities. The most studied and inhibited was nitrification (25–100 %) mainly at therapeutic doses and rarely environmentally relevant. We recommend that firm conclusions regarding inhibition of antibiotics at environmentally relevant concentrations remain difficult due to the lack of studies testing low concentrations at chronic exposure. There is thus a need to test the effects of these environmental concentrations on biogeochemical processes to further establish the possible effects on ecosystem functioning
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadatas
Contributor : Laurent Jonchère <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - 2:36:44 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 11:49:02 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - 7:15:24 AM


Files produced by the author(s)



Céline Roose-Amsaleg, Anniet M. Laverman. Do antibiotics have environmental side-effects? Impact of synthetic antibiotics on biogeochemical processes. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Springer Verlag, 2016, 23 (5), pp.4000-4012. ⟨10.1007/s11356-015-4943-3⟩. ⟨hal-01174217⟩



Record views


Files downloads