Antibiotics are incredibly useful for treating humans and animals but once they’ve done their good work, they end up reaching the environment through excretion or improper disposal of waste. Out in the environment, they contaminate soil, water and plants, creating negative impacts on not only the ecosystems they end up in, but also on human health through increased bacterial resistance thanks to the consumption of contaminated food and water.

However, identification, screening and monitoring of antibiotics in the environment, or any organic contaminant for that matter, using conventional analytical methods can be time-consuming, laborious and expensive, meaning results are not as quick and extensive as we need them to be.

Agilent Fellow Shabnam Bahremand Abrasi

Agilent Fellow Shabnam Bahremand Abrasi is investigating alternatives ways of undertaking this work for her PhD, and explains:

“We have found that vibrational spectroscopic methods based on Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) techniques can offer a ‘green’ approach to assessing the presence of organic contaminants, including antibiotics, as they use fewer toxic solvents and reagents than conventional methods. The data obtained from this method is then analysed using a chemometrics platform to define the nature and quantity of contaminants contained in the sample. We have been able to demonstrate that this combination of techniques is not only greener but also provides quicker results than conventional means with measurements taken directly from the sample. We’re now working to define the lowest concentrations which can be detected using this technique and using increasingly complicated soil samples so we can validate this new methodology.”

For more information on Shabnam’s work, you can contact her at