Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Dr. Piero R. Gardinali

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Rudolf Jaffe

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Yong Cai

Fourth Advisor's Name

Berrin Tansel

Fifth Advisor's Name

Jeffrey Joens


Antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, reclaimed water, Florida, surface water, drinking water, online SPE, LC-MS, LC-MS/MS, metabolites, risk assessment, Erythromycin

Date of Defense



An automated on-line SPE-LC-MS/MS method was developed for the quantitation of multiple classes of antibiotics in environmental waters. High sensitivity in the low ng/L range was accomplished by using large volume injections with 10-mL of sample. Positive confirmation of analytes was achieved using two selected reaction monitoring (SRM) transitions per antibiotic and quantitation was performed using an internal standard approach. Samples were extracted using online solid phase extraction, then using column switching technique; extracted samples were immediately passed through liquid chromatography and analyzed by tandem mass spectrometry. The total run time per each sample was 20 min. The statistically calculated method detection limits for various environmental samples were between 1.2 and 63 ng/L. Furthermore, the method was validated in terms of precision, accuracy and linearity.

The developed analytical methodology was used to measure the occurrence of antibiotics in reclaimed waters (n=56), surface waters (n=53), ground waters (n=8) and drinking waters (n=54) collected from different parts of South Florida. In reclaimed waters, the most frequently detected antibiotics were nalidixic acid, erythromycin, clarithromycin, azithromycin trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole and ofloxacin (19.3-604.9 ng/L). Detection of antibiotics in reclaimed waters indicates that they can’t be completely removed by conventional wastewater treatment process. Furthermore, the average mass loads of antibiotics released into the local environment through reclaimed water were estimated as 0.248 Kg/day. Among the surface waters samples, Miami River (reaching up to 580 ng/L) and Black Creek canal (up to 124 ng/L) showed highest concentrations of antibiotics. No traces of antibiotics were found in ground waters. On the other hand, erythromycin (monitored as anhydro erythromycin) was detected in 82% of the drinking water samples (n.d-66 ng/L). The developed approach is suitable for both research and monitoring applications.

Major metabolites of antibiotics in reclaimed wates were identified and quantified using high resolution benchtop Q-Exactive orbitrap mass spectrometer. A phase I metabolite of erythromycin was tentatively identified in full scan based on accurate mass measurement. Using extracted ion chromatogram (XIC), high resolution data-dependent MS/MS spectra and metabolic profiling software the metabolite was identified as desmethyl anhydro erythromycin with molecular formula C36H63NO12 and m/z 702.4423. The molar concentration of the metabolite to erythromycin was in the order of 13 %. To my knowledge, this is the first known report on this metabolite in reclaimed water. Another compound acetyl-sulfamethoxazole, a phase II metabolite of sulfamethoxazole was also identified in reclaimed water and mole fraction of the metabolite represent 36 %, of the cumulative sulfamethoxazole concentration. The results were illustrating the importance to include metabolites also in the routine analysis to obtain a mass balance for better understanding of the occurrence, fate and distribution of antibiotics in the environment.

Finally, all the antibiotics detected in reclaimed and surface waters were investigated to assess the potential risk to the aquatic organisms. The surface water antibiotic concentrations that represented the real time exposure conditions revealed that the macrolide antibiotics, erythromycin, clarithromycin and tylosin along with quinolone antibiotic, ciprofloxacin were suspected to induce high toxicity to aquatic biota. Preliminary results showing that, among the antibiotic groups tested, macrolides posed the highest ecological threat, and therefore, they may need to be further evaluated with, long-term exposure studies considering bioaccumulation factors and more number of species selected. Overall, the occurrence of antibiotics in aquatic environment is posing an ecological health concern.




Some of the chapters of the dissertation were published while some were not.



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