Scientists are Working on Making Drugs More Biodegradable

Wild animals were found carrying drug resistance though they are living in areas where few human activities are existing. This finding makes scientists think about how to prevent the situation from deteriorating and protect water from being polluted furtherly. From the previous blog we can know that the original reason should be the drug residues in water which can’t be digested by microbes and can reach the wild animals though they are far away from the human living space.

The fundamental aim of the study is to reduce water pollution caused by non-degradable medicine and micro-pollutants. The existing way for such pollution can’t be sustained for a long term as they are not treating the origin of the problem. Only by reducing the substance that is the initial form of the pollution, can this problem be solved in a sustainable way. That’s to say making drugs biodegradable and posing no threat to the environment.


The study is conducted by a team led by Prof. Dr. Klaus Kümmerer from Leuphana University in German, aiming to design drugs that can be biodegradable after they are released. The team thought of ultraviolet to break down the compounds into smaller units to be easily degraded. The idea was inspired by the treatment of effluent, in which ultraviolet was applied to make the pollutants more degradable. But the team tried to apply this idea at the first step of making drugs.

Propranolol, a common high blood pressure drug composition, was tested for the feasibility of the idea as it’s hard to degrade in water and could be poisonous with a long time exposure to it. The studying team dissolved propranolol into water, and then made the solution exposed with ultraviolet for four hours. 16 products were found as the result of the exposure. And then the products were tested for their degradability.

After analysis, it was found that the compound in ring structure could be digested with more ease by microbes after being broke down into line structure. Among the 16 compounds, 4-hydroxypropranolol was digested with a highest level, reaching 23% in a period of one month. About 50% of the 16 compounds are degradable. And the final products were inorganic with low toxicity.

The study is still in the very first stage, and there will be a lot of unknown difficulties in the later phases, like the broke down elements should be also tested for their toxicity for the living organisms and plants and if the elements would change into other substance with a free combination of other chemicals in water.

Anyway, the whole thinking route is worth of a try and it provides innovations to a revolutionary treatment of water pollution caused by drug.