Pharmaceuticals in the Environment – Investigating the effects of anti-depressants in aquatic molluscs

Theme: Environmental Pollution

Main Supervisor:

Alice Baynes

Institute for the Environment, BRUNEL

Second Supervisor:

Susan Jobling

Institute for the Environment, BRUNEL

Project Description:

Pharmaceuticals such, as antidepressants, persisting in the environment are becoming a growing concern for wildlife health. Pharmaceuticals are by their design potent modulators of biological mechanisms.

With 1-in-4 adults experiencing depression in their lifetime, and the numbers of people seeking medication steadily rising, these compounds are entering the environment in increasing quantities. Antidepressants act by modulating the action of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Many biological mechanisms are conserved throughout evolution and serotonin is an important neuromodulator in molluscs as well as mammals.

For example, in molluscs serotonin is involved in important behaviours such as feeding, locomotion, reproduction and predator avoidance. Recent research has highlighted that molluscs, often under-represented in toxicology research, could be extremely sensitive to antidepressant drugs. Therefore the student will develop their research in this emerging field of ecotoxicology.

Policy Impact of Research:

Freshwater molluscs are declining in biodiversity. Research on the effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment on these ecologically important animals is in its infancy.

This project may lead to regulation of antidepressant pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment.


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