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Putative Role of Flavobacterium, Dokdonella and Methylophilus Strains in Paracetamol Biodegradation


Paracetamol, the most widely and globally used analgesic and antipyretic, is easily accumulated in aquatic environments. In the present study, the biodegradation of paracetamol in different media (one for general growth, one specific for sulfate reducing bacteria, a mineral salts medium and municipal wastewater) inoculated with two types of sludge (from anaerobic lagoon and from oxidation ditch) under different oxygenic conditions (anoxic; moderate oxygenation in open flasks and high oxygenation by aeration) was investigated. In addition, bacteria with relative abundances increasing simultaneously with paracetamol degradation, when this drug was the only carbon source, thus with a putative role in its degradation, were identified using 16S rRNA gene sequences. The results show that aerobic microorganisms had a major role in the degradation of paracetamol, with 50 mg/L totally removed from municipal wastewater after 2 days incubation with aeration, and that the metabolites 4-aminophenol and hydroquinone plus one compound not identified in this work were produced in the process. The identification of bacteria with a role in the degradation of paracetamol revealed a strain from genus Pseudomonas with the highest final relative abundance of 21.2%, confirming previous works reporting strains of this genus as paracetamol decomposers. Besides, genera Flavobacterium, Dokdonella and Methylophilus were also in evidence, with initial relative abundances of 1.66%, 1.48 and 0.00% (not detected) in the inoculum and 6.91%, 3.80 and 3.83% after incubation, respectively. Therefore, a putative role of these genera in paracetamol biodegradation is suggested for the first time.

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The authors wish to thank Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) for funding this research through the PhD grant SFRH/BD/95075/2013 and through the project UID/Multi/04326/2013. The authors also acknowledge the scholarship of the Erasmus Mundus Master in Chemical Innovation and Regulations (EMMC-ChIR) of Donaldben Mbagag NEBA provided by the Erasmus Mundus program of the European Commission. In addition, the authors wish to acknowledge the company Águas do Algarve, namely Eng. Joaquim Freire and Eng. Patrício Fontinha, for supplying the WWTP sludge samples.

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Correspondence to Jorge Dias Carlier.

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• The IC50 of paracetamol for the growth of bacteria from municipal WWTP sludge was estimated.

• Biodegradation of paracetamol was tested in different media and oxygenic conditions.

Flavobacterium, Dokdonella and Methylophilus are for first time associated to paracetamol degradation.

• The putative role of these genera in paracetamol degradation is discussed.

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Percentages of 16S rRNA amplicons per OTU for the 25 most abundant bacteria, taxonomic classifications assigned using the RDP classifier as described in Materials and methods


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Palma, T.L., Donaldben, M.N., Costa, M.C. et al. Putative Role of Flavobacterium, Dokdonella and Methylophilus Strains in Paracetamol Biodegradation. Water Air Soil Pollut 229, 200 (2018).

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