Sisi Liu, Guodong Zhao, Hongxia Zhao, Guangshu Zhai, Jingwen Chen, Haidong Zhao
Recently, increasing regulatory and public attention has been paid to the exposure risks of antibiotics due to their occurrence and antibiotic resistance worldwide. However, limited information on antibiotic levels in general populations is available. Forty antibiotics, including 9 sulfonamides, 5 fluoroquinolones, 4 macrolides, 4 tetracyclines, 3 chloramphenicols, 12 β-lactams and 3 others, were analyzed in 107 serum samples of normal adults collected from a hospital in Dalian, North China, between 2015 and 2016 using solid-phase extraction (SPE) coupled with HPLC-MS/MS. The results clearly showed that antibiotics were present in the serum of these adults. Specifically, 28 antibiotics were detected in the samples, with detection frequencies ranging from 0.9% to 17.8%. The total antibiotic concentrations in 26.2% of the serum samples were between the LOD and 20.0 ng/mL. Importantly, the maximum concentrations of 5 antibiotics (trimethoprim, ciprofloxacin, cefaclor, lincomycin and erythromycin) were above 1000 ng/mL in 3.7% of the samples. Furthermore, the detection frequencies of 5 veterinary antibiotics, 7 human antibiotics and 16 human/veterinary antibiotics in the serum samples were 23.4%, 17.8% and 29.0%, respectively. Significant differences of the veterinary antibiotics between female and male adults and of the sulfonamides between different BMI (body mass index) groups were observed (p less than 0.05). The concentrations of sulfonamides in elderly individuals were significantly higher (p less than 0.05) than those in young people. Finally, our results showed that almost all of the adults had no health risks related to exposure to antibiotics at such levels despite the high effect ratio (ER = 1.74) for azithromycin in one sample. This study is the first to report the current status of antibiotics in human blood, which can help in better understanding the long-term effects of antibiotics on general populations and in identifying susceptible populations that are at high risk to antibiotic exposure.