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Enhanced degradation of glucocorticoids, a potential COVID-19 remedy, by co-fermentation of waste activated sludge and animal manure: The role of manure type and degradation mechanism

Ai Zhang, Jinling He, Yuye Shen, Xianbao Xu, Yanan Liu, Yongmei Li, Shimin Wu, Gang Xue, Xiang Li, Jacek Makinia
Environmental research 2021 v.201 pp. 111488
COVID-19 infection, acidification, activated sludge, anaerobes, anaerobic digestion, betamethasone, biomass, calcium, cortisol, dissolved organic carbon, fermentation, hydrogenation, hydrolysis, hydroxylation, lipophilicity, methylation, pH, pollutants, pollution, poultry manure, propionic acid, research, toxicity, value added, volatile fatty acids, waste reduction
Waste activated sludge (WAS) and animal manure are two significant reservoirs of glucocorticoids (GCs) in the environment. However, GC degradation during anaerobic digestion (AD) of WAS or animal manure has rarely been investigated. In this study, co-fermentation of WAS and animal manure was conducted to investigate the performance of AD in controlling GC dissemination. Effects of manure type on GC degradation and sludge acidification were investigated. The results showed that co-fermentation of WAS and chicken manure (CM) significantly enhanced the degradation of hydrocortisone (HC) to 99%, betamethasone (BT) to 99%, fluocinolone acetonide (FA) to 98%, and clobetasol propionate (CP) to 82% in 5 days with a mixing ratio of 1:1 (g TS sludge/g dw manure) at 55 °C and initial pH of 7. Simultaneously, sludge reduction was increased by 30% and value-added volatile fatty acid (VFA) production was improved by 40%. Even a high GC content of biomass (3.6 mg/g TS) did not impact both sludge hydrolysis and acidification. The amendment of WAS with CM increased soluble organic carbon, Ca²⁺, and relative abundance of anaerobes (Eubacterium) associated with organic compound degradation. Furthermore, 44 transformation products of HC, BT, FA, and CP with lower lipophilicity and toxicity were identified, indicating possible degradation pathways including hydroxylation, ketonization, ring cleavage, defluorination, hydrogenation, methylation, and de-esterification. Overall, this study provides a practical way to control GC pollution and simultaneously promote waste reduction and VFA production. Animal manure type as an overlooked factor for influencing co-fermentation performance and pollutant degradation was also highlighted.