Impact of primary carbon sources on microbiome shaping and biotransformation of pharmaceuticals and personal care products

  • Karen Rossmassler
  • Sunah Kim
  • Corey D. Broeckling
  • Sarah Galloway
  • Jessica Prenni
  • Susan K. De LongEmail author
Original Paper


Knowledge of the conditions that promote the growth and activity of pharmaceutical and personal care product (PPCP)-degrading microorganisms within mixed microbial systems are needed to shape microbiomes in biotreatment reactors and manage process performance. Available carbon sources influence microbial community structure, and specific carbon sources could potentially be added to end-of-treatment train biotreatment systems (e.g., soil aquifer treatment [SAT]) to select for the growth and activity of a range of microbial phylotypes that collectively degrade target PPCPs. Herein, the impacts of primary carbon sources on PPCP biodegradation and microbial community structure were explored to identify promising carbon sources for PPCP biotreatment application. Six types of primary carbon sources were investigated: casamino acids, two humic acid and peptone mixtures (high and low amounts of humic acid), molasses, an organic acids mixture, and phenol. Biodegradation was tracked for five PPCPs (diclofenac, 5-fluorouracil, gemfibrozil, ibuprofen, and triclosan). Primary carbon sources were found to differentially impact microbial community structures and rates and efficiencies of PPCP biotransformation. Of the primary carbon sources tested, casamino acids, organic acids, and phenol showed the fastest biotransformation; however, on a biomass-normalized basis, both humic acid-peptone mixtures showed comparable or superior biotransformation. By comparing microbial communities for the different primary carbon sources, abundances of unclassified Beijerinckiaceae, Beijerinckia, Sphingomonas, unclassified Sphingomonadaceae, Flavobacterium, unclassified Rhizobiales, and Nevskia were statistically linked with biotransformation of specific PPCPs.


Biodegradation Biotransformation Carbon source Pharmaceuticals and personal care products Trace organic contaminants Next-generation sequencing 



We sincerely thank Rhodes Trussell, Sangam Stanczak and Yan Qu of Trussell Technologies for providing soil aquifer treatment column material. We would also like to thank Link Mueller for providing activated sludge samples. We wish to thank the Franklin Graybill Statistical Laboratory at Colorado State University of statistical consulting. This research was funded by the Colorado State University Water Center, and other internal funds.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10532_2019_9871_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2570 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Proteomics and Metabolomics FacilityColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care MedicineUniversity of Colorado DenverAuroraUSA
  4. 4.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringPusan National UniversityBusanRepublic of Korea

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