Publication date: Jan 15, 2024
Pharmaceutical transformation products (TPs) generated during wastewater treatment have become an environmental concern. However, there is limited understanding regarding the TPs produced from pharmaceuticals during wastewater treatment. In this study, chloroquine (CQ), which was extensively used for treating coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) infections during the pandemic, was selected for research. We identified and fractionated the main TP produced from CQ during chlorine disinfection and investigated the neurotoxic effects of CQ and its main TP on zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos. Halogenated TP353 was observed as one of the main TPs produced from CQ during chlorine disinfection. Zebrafish embryos test revealed that TP353 caused higher neurotoxicity in zebrafish larvae, as compared to the CQ, and that was accompanied by significantly decreased expression levels of the genes related to central nervous system development (e. g., gfap, syn2a, and elavl3), inhibited activity of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), reduced GFP fluorescence intensity of motor neuron axons in transgenic larvae (hb9-GFP), and reduced total swimming distance and swimming velocity of larvae during light-dark transition stimulation. The results of this study can potentially be utilized as a theoretical reference for future evaluations of environmental risks associated with CQ and its related TPs. This work presents a methodology for assessing the environmental hazards linked to the discharge of pharmaceutical TPs after wastewater treatment.