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Biodegradation of roxarsone by a bacterial community of underground water and its toxic impact


Roxarsone is included in chicken food as anticoccidial and mainly excreted unchanged in faeces. Microorganisms biotransform roxarsone into toxic compounds that leach and contaminate underground waters used for human consumption. This study evaluated roxarsone biotransformation by underground water microorganisms and the toxicity of the resulting compounds. Underground water from an agricultural field was used to prepare microcosms, containing 0.05 mM roxarsone, and cultured under aerobic or anaerobic conditions. Bacterial communities of microcosms were characterized by PCR–DGGE. Roxarsone degradation was measured by HPLC/HG/AAS. Toxicity was evaluated using HUVEC cells and the Toxi-ChromoTest kit. Roxarsone degradation analysis, after 15 days, showed that microcosms of underground water with nutrients degraded 90 and 83.3 % of roxarsone under anaerobic and aerobic conditions, respectively. Microcosms without nutrients degraded 50 and 33.1 % under anaerobic and aerobic conditions, respectively. Microcosms including nutrients showed more roxarsone conversion into toxic inorganic arsenic species. DGGE analyses showed the presence of Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, Planctomycetes and Spirochaetes. Toxicity assays showed that roxarsone biotransformation by underground water microorganisms in all microcosms generated degradation products toxic for eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Furthermore, toxicity increased when roxarsone leached though a soil column and was further transformed by the bacterial community present in underground water. Therefore, using underground water from areas where roxarsone containing manure is used as fertilizer might be a health risk.

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This work was supported by Grant FONDECYT 1110876, CONICYT-CHILE.

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Correspondence to V. L. Campos.

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Mafla, S., Moraga, R., León, C.G. et al. Biodegradation of roxarsone by a bacterial community of underground water and its toxic impact. World J Microbiol Biotechnol 31, 1267–1277 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11274-015-1886-2

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  • Roxarsone
  • Arsenic
  • Underground-water
  • Microcosms
  • Toxicity
  • Biodegradation