Chinese scientists find new way to break down antibiotic in sewage
Updated 15:39, 09-Sep-2019

Chinese scientists have discovered a new method to deal with wastewater and break down antibiotics, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The novel technology, called low-temperature plasma, can rapidly and efficiently disintegrate antibiotic residue like norfloxacin, oxytetracycline and oxytetracycline in medical wastewater, the researchers found.

Antibiotics used in clinical treatment, pharmacy industry, as well as fish breeding and poultry, remain in the sewage. Without treatment, the wastewater poses harmful impacts to both ecological balance and human health.

In collaboration with companies, a team led by Huang Qing from the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science conducted in-depth experiments on the antibiotic, norfloxacin.

The researchers employed a low-temperature oxygen-plasma device to generate ozone, which produces a defluorination reaction with norfloxacin, resulting in efficient and rapid degradation of the antibiotic. Experiments also show effectiveness to other antibiotics including terramycin, tetracycline, aureomycin, and doxycycline.

The treatment technology is simple and cost-effective, said the researchers, adding that it won't produce secondary pollution. It has been successfully applied in more than 40 cases of sewage treatment.

The discovery was published in the international journal Chemosphere.

Plasma, considered as the "fourth state" of matter other than solid, liquid and gas, has shown broad application prospects in many fields such as industry, agriculture and biomedicine.