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Investigation of Pharmaceutical Exposome in Freshwater Organisms – Risk Assessment and Prioritization (PHARMA-RISK)

The problem of environmental contamination with pharmaceutical chemicals has been widely recognized over the past 20 years. The current literature is strongly dominated by studies focused on assessing the exposure concentrations in abiotic matrices (e.g. water and sediments) while reports on the pharmaceutical concentrations in aquatic organisms remain comparatively scarce. However, when considering the possible biological effects, the aqueous exposure concentrations are only an indirect measure of potential toxicity, while the key parameter which determines the substance's potential for adverse effects is its internal concentration in the organism. Consequently, this project aims to provide new insights into the bioaccumulation and metabolic behaviour of pharmaceuticals in freshwater organisms, which is essential for an improved risk assessment of these contaminants as well as for their scientifically-sound prioritization. The project plan includes several interconnected phases, from method development and laboratory-controlled exposure experiments to field studies. Highly specific analytical methods for quantitative multiresidue determination of trace levels of selected pharmaceutical compounds in different environmental matrices (biota, water, sediment) will be developed and validated. These methods will be applied in carefully planned models and field experiments focusing on the characterization of the pharmaceutical exposome in freshwater fish. The model bioaccumulation experiments will be performed using zebrafish (Danio rerio) as the target organism while considering different exposure scenarios. The biochemical responses in fish will be followed by measuring the induction of the major cytochrome P450 detoxification enzymes. As its final step, the project includes a ground-truthing study in the Sava River to assess the pharmaceutical exposome's environmental relevance and collect the critical data for prioritization of individual pharmaceutical contaminants.

Principal investigator: Senka Terzić

Comprehensive assessment of the environmental behaviour and fate of pharmaceutically active contaminants: macrolide antibiotics and opioid analgesics - COMPASS

Aquatic ecosystems throughout the world are exposed to an increasing pressure from various anthropogenic sources that release large variety of potentially harmful synthetic organic contaminants, including pharmaceutically active compounds. Most of the environmental studies of pharmaceuticals are focused mainly on the determination of parent compounds and encompass only one environmental compartment. Such simplified approach often underestimates the ecotoxicological relevance of a contaminant class, either by neglecting the contribution of its transformation products or by overlooking some critical mechanisms that may pose a threat to the environmental safety and human health. As opposed to that, this project aims at demonstrating the importance of the comprehensive assessment of aquatic contaminants, based on the study of two important groups of pharmaceuticals, macrolide antibiotics (MAs) and opioid analgesics (OAs), by including their main transformation products (TPs) and addressing the issue of physico-chemical partitioning in the exposure assessment. 

Principal investigator: Senka Terzić

Development and evaluation of innovative tools to estimate the ecotoxicological impact of low dose pesticide application in agriculture on soil functional microbial biodiversity

The ECOFUN-MICROBIODIV project aimed at developing and evaluating innovative tools to estimate the ecotoxicological impact of low dose pesticides used in agriculture on soil functional microbial biodiversity. It proposed to estimate the impact of sulfonylurea herbicide on soil microbial biodiversity and functioning. This project is based on an interdisciplinary approach conducted at different scale, from the field plot to the greenhouse, to test in corn crop the impact of chemical weeding compared to mechanical.

Division for Marine and Environmental Research

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