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The electrochemical detection of cephalosporins is a promising approach for the monitoring of cephalosporin levels in process waters. However, this class of antibiotics, like penicillins, is composed of chemically active molecules and susceptible to hydrolysis and aminolysis of the four membered β-lactam ring present. In order to develop a smart monitoring strategy for cephalosporins, the influence of degradation (hydrolysis and aminolysis) on the electrochemical fingerprint has to be taken into account. Therefore, an investigation was carried out to understand the changes of the voltammetric fingerprints upon acidic and alkaline degradation. Changes in fingerprints were correlated to the degradation pathways through the combination of square wave voltammetry and liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight analysis. The characteristic electrochemical signals of the β-lactam ring disappeared upon hydrolysis. Additional oxidation signals that appeared after degradation were elucidated and linked to different degradation products, and therefore, enrich the voltammetric fingerprints with information of the state of the cephalosporins. The applicability of the electrochemical monitoring system was explored by the analysis of the intact and degraded industrial process waters containing the key intermediate 7-aminodeacetoxycephalosporanic acid (7-ADCA). Clearly, the intact process samples exhibited the expected core signals of 7-ADCA and could be quantified, while the degraded samples only showed the newly formed degradation products.


Nick Sleegers, Alexander L N van Nuijs, Marco van den Berg, Karolien De Wael. Electrochemistry of Intact Versus Degraded Cephalosporin Antibiotics Facilitated by LC-MS Analysis. Analytical chemistry. 2021 Feb 02;93(4):2394-2402

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PMID: 33393285

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