Oxidation of antibiotics during water treatment with potassium permanganate: Reaction pathways and deactivation

Lanhua Hu, Amanda M. Stemig, Kristine H. Wammer, Timothy J. Strathmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent work demonstrates that three widely administered antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, lincomycin, and trimethoprim) are oxidized by potassium permanganate [KMnO4, Mn(VII)] under conditions relevant to water treatment operations. However, tests show that little to no mineralization occurs during reactions with Mn(VII), so studies were undertaken to characterize the reaction products and pathways and to assess the effects of Mn(VII)-mediated transformations on the antibacterial activity of solutions. Several oxidation products were identified for each antibiotic by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). For ciprofloxacin, 12 products were identified, consistent with oxidation of the tertiary aromatic and secondary aliphatic amine groups on the piperazine ring and the cyclopropyl group. For lincomycin, seven products were identified that indicate structural changes to the pyrrolidine ring and thioether group. For trimethoprim, seven products were identified, consistent with Mn(VII) reaction at C=C double bonds on the pyrimidine ring and the bridging methylene group. Oxidation pathways are proposed based on the identified products. Bacterial growth inhibition bioassays (E. coli DH5α) show that the mixture of products resulting from Mn(VII) reactions with the antibiotics collectively retain negligible antibacterial potency in comparison to the parent antibiotics. These results suggest that permanganate can be an effective reagent for eliminating the pharmaceutical activity of selected micropollutants during drinking water treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3635-3642
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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