Joint research project


Project leaders
Anna Barracaracciolo, Beata Sperlagh
UNGHERIA - HAS (MTA) - Accademia Ungherese delle Scienze
CNR/HAS (MTA) 2016-2018
Earth system science and environmental technologies
Thematic area
Earth system science and environmental technologies
Status of the project

Research proposal

The impressive advancement made by pharmacology in recent decades has had undeniable benefits for the society as a whole, primarily because of the widespread availability of pharmaceuticals in the medical practice to effectively treat most pathologies.
The collaboration will deal with the most recent advances in this field as well as with the role played to this end by innovative analytical technique as in many instances, analytical chemistry is closely related to the studies and needs of pharmacological research. The Hungarian partners have developed new techniques to detect small molecules, neurotransmitters, drug metabolites, toxins in biological fluids.
The Italian partner deals with the environmental fate and biodegradation of pharmaceuticals once they reach water ecosystem after the human consumption. Pharmaceutical occurrence in ecosystems has been paying more and more attention for the last decade owing to their diffuse detection as microcontaminants both in water and soil ecosystems. Following therapeutic administration, a great percentage of human pharmaceuticals is excreted unaltered or as an active metabolite, and enters sewage treatment system. The latter represents an important source point for water pollution if the pharmaceuticals are not efficiently removed. Moreover, hospital, industrial wastewater, uncontrolled and illegal drug disposal and aquaculture can also be a further pollution source.
Pharmaceutical occurrence in the environment can affect natural microbial populations in different ways: some microorganisms can become resistant (e.g. to antibiotics), others can degrade and remove drugs from environment, others can be killed and in this case fundamental ecological processes such as biogeochemical cycles and organic contaminant degradation can be compromised.
The environmental exposure, even more the human exposure to pharmaceuticals from the environment is complex; thus, the ecopharmacological or pharmacoenvironmental research projects require multilevel, interdisciplinary approaches. The following issues are in the focus of the research projects: 1. identification of pharmaceuticals in natural water or soil, 2. structural transformation of pharmaceuticals either through physico-chemical degradation or biotransformation, 3. estimation of the exposure and potential bioaccumulation of drugs, 4. estimation of long-term exposure of various organisms and humans to pharmaceuticals and their metabolic products, and 5. assessment of environmental and human health risk. All these levels should involve the expertise and cross-talk between analytical, pharmacological and toxicological researchers.

Research goals

The environmental impact of pharmaceuticals and their metabolic products has been the subject of extensive research all over the world. Most pharmaceuticals can reach the environment, primarily in natural water, through human consumption and excretion or through improper disposal, and are often eliminated ineffectively by wastewater treatment plants. Once in the water, they can have subtle effects on ecosystem biota and on humans through use of contaminated drinkable water. To identify the environmental exposure as well as the undesired harmful effects of pharmaceuticals, interdisciplinary cross talk between various analytical, pharmacological, toxicological, ecotoxicological, microbiological disciplines has particular relevance in our decade. Italian and Hungarian researchers involved in this project have a longstanding experience in dealing with this problem. The collaboration aims to assess in a holistic approach the environmental and health impacts of pharmaceutical mixtures on the water ecosystems in order to update and to rationalize monitoring plans for evaluating pharmaceutical contamination. For this purpose, expert in various fields (analytical chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, microbiology) can meet personally and present their results and opinions as well as set up new collaborations.

Last update: 18/07/2024