Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 2191–2203 | Cite as

Antibiotic distribution, risk assessment, and microbial diversity in river water and sediment in Hong Kong

  • Wen-Jing Deng
  • Na Li
  • Guang-Guo YingEmail author
Original Paper


For the past fewer years, environment antibiotic residues have got more and more attention. The occurrence and distribution of eight common antibiotics, belonging to five classes, were determined in both water and sediment of eleven rivers of Hong Kong. The target antibiotics were found to be widely distributed. Sulfamethoxazole (n.d.–79.9 ng/L), sulfadimidine (n.d.–29.9 ng/L), and ofloxacin (n.d.–75.5 ng/L) were the dominant antibiotics in river water, with detection rates of 84.6, 76.9, and 69.2%, respectively. Tetracycline (n.d.–9.8 ng/g) was the dominant antibiotic in sediment, with a detection rate of 60%. The concentrations of all antibiotics in river water of Hong Kong were lower than which in various rivers of Europe, North America and Australia, as well as the Pearl River Basin of China. All sediment sites exhibited significant bacterial diversity. Gammaproteobacteria (0.08–12.7%) and Flavobacteria (0.14–14.1%) were the dominant bacterial classes in all sediments. The bacterial compositions varied between sites; areas polluted with high levels of antibiotics had rich and highly diverse bacterial communities. The environmental risk assessment determined that the antibiotics in 73.1% of the samples posed ecological risks to algae, and two samples posed low risks to invertebrates. Ofloxacin was the main contributor of risk to aquatic organisms, while the antibiotics in 11.5% of the samples posed resistance selection risks.

Graphical Abstract

The occurrence and distribution of eight common antibiotics, belonging to five classes, were widely distributed in Hong Kong. Sulfamethoxazole, sulfadimidine, and ofloxacin were the dominant antibiotics in river waters, Tetracycline was the dominant antibiotic in sediment. Areas polluted with high levels of antibiotics had rich and highly diverse bacterial communities. Antibiotics in 73.1% of the samples posed ecological risks, while the antibiotics in 11.5% of the samples posed resistance selection risks.


Antibiotics Rivers Microbial community Risk assessment UPLC-ES-MS/MS 



The authors acknowledge the support of the Early Career Start/General Research Fund of Hong Kong (Code No. ECS/GRF 845212), FLASS Dean’s Research Fund (Ref. No. 04200), Internal Research Grant of the Education University of Hong Kong (Ref. No. R3807, R3919). The project was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. U1701242).

Supplementary material

10653_2018_92_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1273 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science and Environmental StudiesThe Education University of Hong KongTai Po, N.T.Hong Kong
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry, Guangzhou Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.The Environmental Research Institute, MOE Key Laboratory of Environmental Theoretical ChemistrySouth China Normal UniversityGuangzhouChina

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