Effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on cyanobacteria and algae in laboratory strains and in natural algal assemblages

István Bácsi, Viktória B-Béres, Zsuzsanna Kókai, Sándor Gonda, Zoltán Novák, Sándor Alex Nagy, G. Vasas

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17 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years measurable concentrations of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown in the aquatic environment as a result of increasing human consumption. Effects of five frequently used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (diclofenac, diflunisal, ibuprofen, mefenamic acid and piroxicam in 0.1 mg ml-1 concentration) in batch cultures of cyanobacteria (Synechococcus elongatus, Microcystis aeruginosa, Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii), and eukaryotic algae (Desmodesmus communis, Haematococcus pluvialis, Cryptomonas ovata) were studied. Furthermore, the effects of the same concentrations of NSAIDs were investigated in natural algal assemblages in microcosms. According to the changes of chlorophyll-a content, unicellular cyanobacteria seemed to be more tolerant to NSAIDs than eukaryotic algae in laboratory experiments. Growth of eukaryotic algae was reduced by all drugs, the cryptomonad C. ovata was the most sensitive to NSAIDs, while the flagellated green alga H. pluvialis was more sensitive than the non-motile green alga D. communis. NSAID treatments had weaker impact in the natural assemblages dominated by cyanobacteria than in the ones dominated by eukaryotic algae, confirming the results of laboratory experiments. Diversity and number of functional groups did not change notably in cyanobacteria dominated assemblages, while they decreased significantly in eukaryotic algae dominated ones compared to controls. The results highlight that cyanobacteria (especially unicellular ones) are less sensitive to the studied, mostly hardly degradable NSAIDs, which suggest that their accumulation in water bodies may contribute to the expansion of cyanobacterial mass productions in appropriate environmental circumstances by pushing back eukaryotic algae. Thus, these contaminants require special attention during wastewater treatment and monitoring of surface waters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-518
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2016



  • Algae
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Laboratory strains
  • Natural assemblages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology

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