Antibiotics, such as ofloxacin (OFX) and ciprofloxacin (CFX), are often detected in considerable concentrations in both wastewater effluents and surface water. This poses a risk to non-target organisms and to human health. The aim of this work was to study atmospheric cold plasma (ACP) degradation of antibiotics in water and meat effluent and to explore any residual antimicrobial activity of samples submitted to the plasma process. The results revealed that ACP successfully degraded the studied antibiotics and that the reaction mechanism is principally related to attack by hydroxyl radicals and ozone. According to the disk diffusion assay, the activity of both antibiotics was considerably reduced by the plasma treatment. However, a microdilution method demonstrated that CFX exhibited higher antimicrobial activity after ACP treatment than the corresponding control revealing a potentially new platform for future research to improve the efficiency of conventional antibiotic treatments. Importantly, short-term exposures to sub-lethal concentrations of the antibiotic equally reduced bacterial susceptibility to both ACP treated and untreated CFX. As a remediation process, ACP removal of antibiotics in complex wastewater effluents is possible. However, it is recommended that plasma encompass degradant structure activity relationships to ensure that biological activity is eliminated against non-target organisms and that life cycle safety of antibiotic compounds is achieved.
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