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Research article2013Peer reviewed

Toxicity of 15 veterinary Pharmaceuticals in zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos

Carlsson, Gunnar; Patring, Johan; Kreuger, Jenny; Norrgren, Leif; Oskarsson, Agneta


Extensive use of veterinary pharmaceuticals may result in contamination of water bodies adjacent to pasture land or areas where animal manure has been applied. In order to evaluate the potential risk to fish embryos 15 veterinary pharmaceuticals were investigated by use of an extended zebrafish embryo toxicity test. Chemical analysis of the exposure medium was performed by solid phase extraction-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (SPE-LC-MS/MS) for 11 of the compounds and potential metabolism by the embryos was studied for albendazole, febantel, fenbendazole and oxfendazole. Newly fertilized zebrafish eggs were exposed under static conditions in 96-well plates for 6 days to the pharmaceuticals: 5 antibacterials and 10 antiparasitics. Endpoints including mortality, malformations and other sublethal responses were recorded at 24, 48 and 144 h post fertilization (hpf). The pharmaceuticals causing the highest toxicity were antiparasitics whereas the tested antibacterials, danofloxacin, enrofloxacin, tylosine, trimethoprim and oxytetracyclin had a much lower toxic potency in zebrafish embryos. Most toxic were fenbendazole, albendazole and flumethrin with no observed effect concentrations (NOECs) around 0.02 mg/L. The overall NOEC was determined by lethality for the following pharmaceuticals: albendazole, fenbendazole and oxfendazole. Sublethal endpoints, including malformations, side-laying embryos, tremors, reduced movements and altered heart rate increased the sensitivity of the tests and determined the overall NOECs for febantel, doramectin, ivermectin, flumethrin and toltrazuril. Exposure to doramectin and ivermectin caused a decrease in movements at 24 hpf and a decrease in heart rate at 48 hpf. Flumethrin exposure resulted in decreased time to hatching, except at the highest concentrations, and caused an increase in heart rate at 48 hpf. In contrast, toltrazuril caused an increased time to hatching and a decrease in heart rate. Chemical analysis of the exposure medium after the tests revealed great differences between nominal and measured concentrations, emphasizing the need of including analysis of the actual exposure concentrations. The results indicated that metabolism of albendazole into its sulfoxide protected the embryos from toxicity. Albendazole was metabolized efficiently into albendazole sulfoxide at lower exposure concentrations, resulting in reduced toxicity. At higher concentrations, an increasing proportion of albendazole remained unmetabolized and embryo mortality occurred. Metabolism by the embryos of febantel into fenbendazole and oxfendazole and of fenbendazole into oxfendazole was demonstrated. It is suggested that the toxic effect of febantel in zebrafish embryos is due to metabolism into fenbendazole.

Published in

Aquatic Toxicology
2013, Volume: 126, pages: 30-41