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Effects of commonly used therapeutic drugs, paracetamol, and acetylsalicylic acid, on key physiological traits of the sea snail Gibbula umbilicalis.


Over time, the consumption of pharmaceutical drugs has highly augmented, directly contributing for an increase of the discharges of these substances into sewage water due to excretion, and their direct release to the environment, with or without adequate treatment. Considering that part of the sewage water is dumped into rivers and seas, this is the major source of contamination of the aquatic environment. Paracetamol and acetylsalicylic acid are among the most worldwide consumed pharmaceutical drugs, frequently found in wastewater discharges and consequently in the aquatic environment in considerable amounts, posing ecotoxicity concerns especially towards aquatic non-target species. Thus, it is important to study the ecotoxicological implications that these drugs might pose to organisms from aquatic environments. The objective of this study was to assess the toxic effects of these two compounds on key biochemical features (antioxidant defenses and damage, metabolism, and cholinergic neurotoxicity) of the marine snail species Gibbula umbilicalis after an acute (96 h) exposure, simulating pulses of contamination. In order to understand the effects that those drugs have on this species, the biochemical biomarkers analyzed were the activities of catalase (CAT), glutathione-S-transferases (GSTs), cholinesterases (ChEs), and the levels of lipid peroxidation (TBARS). After acute exposure to paracetamol, catalase activity decreased significantly in organisms exposed to both highest concentrations; no significant alterations were observed for glutathione-S-transferases activity; TBARS concentration decreased significantly in organisms exposed to the intermediate and both highest concentrations, and cholinesterase activity increased significantly in animals exposed to the lowest concentration. However, after acute exposure to acetylsalicylic acid, catalase activity increased significantly; no significant alterations were observed for glutathione-S-transferases activity, and TBARS concentrations and cholinesterase activity increased. This set of data shows that G. umbilicalis is highly responsive to the presence of the tested drugs, and may thus be a promising species to serve as test organism in future marine ecotoxicological testing. The adoption of this species may broaden the offer of highly ecologically representative test organisms to be included in biomonitoring projects of the coastal and marine environment. Furthermore, it is possible to suggest that both drugs may pose significant deleterious effects of pro-oxidative origin to the physiology of the selected species, with potential adverse ecological consequences, even after short periods of exposure. The absence of neurotoxicity showed that despite being able to trigger antioxidant mechanisms, both drugs did not affect neurotransmission.