Call for partners: Removal of medicinal residues from waste water by adapted microorganisms

Medicines and antibiotics ingested by humans find their way to the environment through urine and fecal material that ends up in the sewer. Current wastewater treatment plants are however not equipped to remove these persistent compounds, resulting in environmental pollution. Biological degradation of medicinal substances is however possible by means of specifically adapted bacteria, which are optimized for their task by evolutionary laboratory modification. In this initiative we use the latest microbial and reactor techniques for a bioremediation solution of medicinal waste streams.

Medicines, a blessing for mankind but not for the environment

A large variety of medicines are currently available to treat many different diseases. This blessing for the many humans who take these medicines unfortunately also results in contamination of the surface- and  groundwater mostly by excretion via urine. Hospitals and elderly homes are so-called hotspots, as well as pharmaceutical manufacturing sites. Although in the Netherlands, as opposed to rest of the World, we are very responsible with medicine & antibiotics, even yearly 190 ton/year are emitted to surface waters. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is generally accepted to be a global health and development threat and requires urgent multisectoral action in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The WHO has declared that AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.

MEDALE Consortium targets to degrade persistent compounds like medicines by bacteria

Here we propose the use of uniquely adapted micro-organisms for the degradation of these medicinal compounds in wastewater streams. In more detail the MEDALE consortium (Medicine Degradation by Adaptive Laboratory Evolution) allows for targeted degradation of specific persistent compounds like antibiotics by bacteria that are generally regarded as safe (GRAS or QPS). The research and development that will be conducted will include:

  • Adaptation of strains towards optimal degradation of medicinal compounds
  • Testing of these strains in a fit-for-purpose membrane bioreactor
  • Validation of the system using an industrial waste water streams

MEDALE offers a very effective approach for this challenge as this results in a targeted, safe and environmentally friendly solution that can be easily incorporated at any location. The final system that will be developed in this initiative will consist of a membrane bioreactor system that contains and retains the adapted, natural bacteria that efficiently degrade the medicinal compounds.

Co-funding partners are invited

The initiative will be submitted to NWO-TKI. As co-funding partners we invite companies in the both the health care industry as well as suppliers of water treatment technology that are looking for solutions of (their) medicinal waste water streams.