Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 22, pp 22023–22034 | Cite as

Global development of the studies focused on antibiotics in aquatic systems from 1945 to 2017

  • Chun-Li Zheng
  • James B Cotner
  • Chikashi Sato
  • Gang Li
  • Yao-Yang Xu
Research Article


Antibiotics are used to fight diseases in humans and farm animals. Their residues, however, can enter aquatic environments and affect the resistance of non-target microbial strains, and the prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) potentially poses negative impacts on human health. In order to better understand how the studies of antibiotics have been conducted, we analyzed the publications on antibiotics in aquatic systems for the period of 1945–2017. We applied a bibliometric analysis method by coupling cluster analysis and network analysis. Results indicated that early research on antibiotics in water was mostly performed in America and Europe, while, in recent years, publications for the same subject were dominated by China and the USA. The majority of the articles were published in journal Chemosphere and the most representative subject categories of the seven sections were “Environmental science and ecology,” “Chemistry,” “Engineering,” “Biochemistry and molecular biology,” “Water resources,” “Agriculture,” and “Pharmacology and pharmacy.” The most studied class of antibiotics was tetracyclines in wastewater. Antibiotic resistance, ARGs, Escherichia coli, and some mechanistic studies such as adsorption, toxicity, degradation, and kinetics were common topics in this field. ARGs present a major public health concern and much attention should be directed at the problems with antibiotics in the future studies of water.


Antibiotics Aquatic systems Cross-disciplines International collaborations Research trends 



This paper is based upon the fund supports provided by Ministry of Science and Technology of China (MSTC) with National Key Research and Development Program(2017YFC0502704), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) with Pioneer Hundred Talents Program (Y710021F50) and Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health Program (KLUEH-C-201701), National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) with Young Scientists Programs (31200358; 31300397), and International Collaboration Programs (41571130063) and Ningbo Science and Technology Bureau (NSTB) with Key Scientific and Technological Program (2015C110001). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of MSTC, CAS, NSFC, and NSTB. We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 Table S1 Sample determination of publication times for “countries”. The datasets of countries, subject categories, keywords and journals used for statistical analysis (DOCX 17 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXiamenPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Ningbo Key Laboratory of Urban Environment Processes and Pollution Control, Ningbo Urban Environment Observation and Research StationChinese Academy of SciencesNingboPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Ecology, Evolution and BehaviorUniversity of Minnesota-Twin CitiesSaint PaulUSA
  5. 5.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringIdaho State UniversityPocatelloUSA

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