Occurrence and environmental fate of veterinary antibiotics in the terrestrial environment

Kwon Rae Kim, Gary Owens, Soon Ik Kwon, Kyu Ho So, Deog Bae Lee, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

350 Citations (Scopus)


A wide variety of veterinary antibiotics (VAs) has been detected in environmental water samples, and this is of potential environmental concern due to their adverse effects. In particular, the potential for development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has raised social concerns leading to intensive investigation regarding the influence of antibiotics on human and ecosystem health. One of the main sources of antibiotic effluence to the environment is livestock manures that often contain elevated levels of VAs that survive normal digestive procedures following medication in animal husbandry because unlike human waste, waste generated on farms does not undergo tertiary wastewater treatment, and consequently, the concentration of antibiotics entering the environment is expected to be larger from farming practices. Animal feed is often supplemented with VAs to promote growth and parasite resistance in the medicated animals, and this practice typically resulted in higher use of VAs and consequential excretion from livestock through urine and feces. The excretion rate varied depending on the type of VA used with around 75, 90, and 50-100% being excreted for chlortetracycline, sulfamethazine, and tyolsin, respectively. The excreted VAs that initially present in livestock manures were degraded more than 90% when proper composting practice was used, and hence, this can be employed as a management strategy to decrease VA environmental loads. The reduction of VA concentrations during composting was mainly attributed to abiotic processes rather than biotic degradation. The VAs released to soils by the application of manure and manure-based composts can be degraded or inactivated to various degrees through abiotic process such as adsorption to soil components. Depending on the antibiotic species and soil properties, residues can be transferred to groundwater and surface water through leaching and runoff and can potentially be taken up by plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-174
Number of pages12
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jan
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgment This study was supported by the 2009 Post Doctoral Course Program of the National Academy of Agricultural Science, Rural Development Administration, Republic of Korea.


  • Antibiotics
  • Chlortetracycline
  • Degradation
  • Fate
  • Sulfamethazine
  • Tylosin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution


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