Evaluation of the Environmental Prevalence and Toxicity of Sulfonamides and Their Metabolites

Senior Capstone Experience by Allison Gallagher ’21

Submitted to the Department of Chemistry 

Advised by Dr. Leslie Sherman

Description: Antibiotics are one of the most used drugs worldwide. Sulfonamides (SNs) were the first class of antibiotics discovered, and remain among the top used antibiotics, as they are commonly used in humans, agriculture, and aquaculture. Due to the heavy use of not just antibiotics but SNs specifically, many SNs are found in the environment. Sulfamethoxazole (SMX) is one of the most prevalent in the environment out of all the sulfonamides. SMX is heavily metabolized by the human body, and thus many different metabolites are excreted into the environment. Some of these metabolites are inert, yet some are still active against bacteria, or can easily be converted back to the active SMX compound through either wastewater treatment, or microorganisms living within the human digestive tract. Once present in the environment, these antibiotics and their metabolites can cause many issues such as antibiotic resistance (ABR) and disruptions in aquatic organisms’ endocrine and reproductive systems. These contaminants also lead to environmental pollution, which can disrupt entire ecosystems. ABR possess a great threat to the current ease of treatability of bacterial infections. This is a global issue that is rapidly growing. Many programs have been put in place to combat the ABR pandemic. However, the rate of antibiotic discovery needs to surpass the rate of bacterial evolution if the human race is to make any progress against this issue.

Read Allison’s SCE below:

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