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The toxicity potential of pharmaceuticals found in the Douro River estuary (Portugal)—Experimental assessment using a zebrafish embryo test

Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.etap.2011.05.005
  • Zebrafish
  • Embryonic Structures
  • Xenobiotics
  • Drug Effects
  • Toxicity
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Medicine
  • Pharmacology


Abstract Fish embryos are a particularly vulnerable stage of development, so they represent optimal targets for screening toxicological effects of waterborne xenobiotics. Herein, the toxicity potential of two mixtures of pharmaceuticals was evaluated using a zebrafish embryo test. One of the mixtures corresponds to an environmentally realistic scenario and both have carbamazepine, fenofibric acid, propranolol, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole. The results evidenced morphological alterations, such as spinal deformities and yolk-sac oedemas. Moreover, heart rates decreased after both mixture exposures, e.g., at 48 hpf, highest mixture versus blank control (47.8 ± 4.9 and 55.8 ± 3.7 beats/30 s, respectively). The tail lengths also diminished significantly from 3208 ± 145 μm in blank control to 3130 ± 126 μm in highest mixture. The toxicological effects were concentration dependent. Mortality, hatching rate and the number of spontaneous movements were not affected. However, the low levels of pharmaceuticals did interfere with the normal development of zebrafish, which indicates risks for wild organisms.

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