Research Highlight

Sunlight, nanocatalyst break down antibiotics

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.23 Published online 27 February 2018

Researchers have synthesised a nanocatalyst that can break down antibiotic cefixime in the presence of sunlight1. This process will be potentially useful for treating wastewater that is contaminated with antibiotics such as cefixime.  

Among the pollutants in wastewater, antibiotics are potentially harmful because of their ability to generate antibiotic-resistant microbes. Cefixime is one such antibiotic, and is used to treat bacterial infections such as lung infections, sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections.

In search of an efficient way to remove such antibiotics from wastewater, scientists from the University of Calicut, Kerala, in India prepared a nanocatalyst by combining titanium dioxide with modified graphene. They then tested its antibiotic-degrading potential by adding it to a solution containing cefixime in sunlight.

Increasing the time of exposure to sunlight, the nanocatalyst accelerated the degradation of the antibiotic. Half of the degradation happened in the initial 30 minutes, after which it slowed down. Increasing the amount of the nanocatalyst also accelerated the light-induced degradation of the antibiotic.    

Enhancing the amount of the nanocatalyst gradually reduced the amount of the antibiotic in the solution, suggesting the potential of this method for treating antibiotic-contaminated wastewater. Adding hydrogen peroxide to the antibiotic-containing solution considerably increased the rate of antibiotic degradation.  

This method of antibiotic degradation can be commecialised to treat antibiotic-laden wastewater that has the potential to breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria.





1. Shaniba, C. et al. Sunlight-assisted oxidative degradation of cefixime antibiotic from aqueous medium using TiO2/Nitrogen doped holey graphene nanocomposite as a high performance photocatalyst. J. Environ. Chem. Eng. (2018) doi: 10.1016/j.jece.2018.02.012