Photolytic and photocatalytic decomposition of aqueous ciprofloxacin: Transformation products and residual antibacterial activity

Tias Paul, Michael C. Dodd, Timothy J. Strathmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous work demonstrates that widely used fluoroquinolone antibacterial agents, including ciprofloxacin, are degraded by means of aqueous ultraviolet photolytic and titanium dioxide (TiO2) photocatalytic (using both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and visible light (Vis) irradiation) treatment processes. In this study, we investigate the effects of photolytic and photocatalytic treatment processes on the antibacterial activity of ciprofloxacin solutions under controlled laboratory conditions. In agreement with earlier work, rates of ciprofloxacin degradation under comparable solution conditions (100μM ciprofloxacin, 0 or 0.5g/L TiO2, pH 6, 25°C) follow the trend UVA-TiO2>Vis-TiO2>UVA. Release of ammonia and fluoride ions is observed and a range of organic products have been identified with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. However, the identified organic products all appear to retain the core quinolone structure, raising concerns about residual antibacterial potency of the treated solutions. Quantitative microbiological assays with a reference Escherichia coli strain indicate that the antimicrobial potency of ciprofloxacin solutions track closely with the undegraded ciprofloxacin concentration during photolytic or photocatalytic reactions. Quantitative analysis shows that for each mole of ciprofloxacin degraded, the antibacterial potency of irradiated solutions decreases by approximately one " mole" of activity relative to that of the untreated ciprofloxacin solution. This in turn indicates that the ciprofloxacin photo(cata)lytic transformation products retain negligible antibacterial activity relative to the parent compound. The energy demands for achieving one order of magnitude reduction in antibacterial activity within the experimental system are estimated to be 175J/cm2 (UVA-only), 29J/cm2 (Vis-TiO2), and 20J/cm2 (UVA-TiO2), which indicates that the UVA-TiO2 photocatalysis is the most energy efficient process for achieving ciprofloxacin inactivation under laboratory conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3121-3132
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Antibacterial potency
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Microbiological assay
  • Photo-deactivation
  • Photolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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