Removal of carbamazepine, venlafaxine and iohexol from wastewater effluent using coupled microalgal–bacterial biofilm

Patricia K. Akao*, Aviv Kaplan, Dror Avisar, Amit Dhir, Adi Avni, Hadas Mamane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We evaluated the removal capacity of a coupled microalgal–bacterial biofilm (CMBB) to eliminate three recalcitrant pharmaceuticals. The CMBB's efficiency, operating at different biofilm concentrations, with or without light, was compared and analyzed to correlate these parameters to pharmaceutical removal and their effect on the microorganism community. Removal rates changed with changing pharmaceutical and biofilm concentrations: higher biofilm concentrations presented higher removal. Removal of 82–94% venlafaxine and 18–51% carbamazepine was obtained with 5 days of CMBB treatment. No iohexol removal was observed. Light, microorganism composition, and dissolved oxygen concentration are essential parameters governing the removal of pharmaceuticals and ammonia. Chlorophyll concentration increased with time, even in the dark. Three bacterial phyla were dominant: Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. The dominant eukaryotic supergroups were Archaeplastida, Excavata and SAR. A study of the microorganisms' community indicated that not only do the species in the biofilm play an important role; environment, concentration and interactions among them are also important. CMBB has the potential to provide low-cost and sustainable treatment for wastewater and recalcitrant pharmaceutical removal. The microenvironments on the biofilm created by the microalgae and bacteria improved treatment efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136399
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Microalgal–bacterial biofilm
  • Pharmaceutical removal
  • Sponges
  • Wastewater treatment


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