Spatiotemporal urban water profiling for the assessment of environmental and public exposure to antimicrobials (antibiotics, antifungals, and antivirals) in the Eerste River Catchment, South Africa

Elizabeth Holton, Edward Archer, James Fidal, Thomas Kjeldsen, Gideon Wolfaardt, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern

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11 Citations (SciVal)


Antimicrobial agent (AA) usage, excretion, and persistence are all important factors in association with the occurrence and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance. Urban water profiling was utilised in the Eerste River catchment (South Africa) to establish AA usage in a region where comprehensive prescription records were not readily available and where portions of the community did not have sufficient access to sanitation. This technique enabled the environmental exposure to be quantified throughout the catchment area and the identification of contamination hotspots. Monitoring occurred over a 11-month period. 812 samples were processed using UPLC-MS/MS for the quantitation of 56 antimicrobials and 26 of their metabolites. Spatiotemporal trends were established, with consideration to community behaviour, seasonal changes, and physiochemical properties of the analytes. The Eerste River samples collected upstream from the town of Stellenbosch had the lowest AA loads (<4 g/day), unafflicted by industrial presence and with only small impact from farming activities. This was followed by sites downstream from a wastewater treatment plant (serving 178 K people). The measurement of low AA loads (influent: 500–800 g/day and effluent 50–100 g/day), indicates a high efficiency of wastewater treatment, allowing for an effective reduction of AA and a lower environmental burden. This is compared to river sites that receive untreated waste from communities in informal settlements (6–12 K people) that are not connected to the sewer infrastructure (with AA levels accounting for 100–600 g/day). Temporal trends exhibited reduced daily loads during the summer to early autumn (Nov-May). This is likely due to seasonal patterns in community health and/or notable changes in rainfall and temperatures at the sampling locations throughout the year. However, weather patterns are also important to consider – particularly for the river sites. South Africa has notable rainfall and temperature seasonality. Antiretrovirals (ARV), emtricitabine and lamivudine, were the most prevalent drugs throughout the monitoring campaign, followed by tuberculosis drugs and sulfonamides. ARVs were, however, effectively reduced via wastewater treatment processes (>97%). This was also the case for beta-lactams, nitrofurantoin, and trimethoprim. The treatment efficacy for other drugs was more variable, that did not appear to have temporal significance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107227
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date20 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2022


  • AMR
  • Antibiotics antivirals and antifungals occurrence
  • Catchment monitoring
  • River
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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