The study evaluates the chronic impact of the antibiotic tetracycline on the biodegradation of organic substrate under anaerobic conditions. The experiments involved an anaerobic sequencing batch reactor fed with a synthetic substrate mixture including glucose, starch and volatile fatty acids, and operated in a sequence of different phases with gradually increasing tetracycline doses of 1.65-8.5 mg/L, for more than five months. Tetracycline exerted a terminal/lethal effect at 8.5 mg/L on the microbial community under anaerobic conditions, which caused the inhibition of substrate/COD utilization and biogas generation and leading to a total collapse of the reactor. The microbial activity could not be recovered and re-started within a period of more than 10 days, even after stopping tetracycline dosing. At lower doses, substrate utilization was not affected but a reduction of 10-20% was observed in the biogas/methane generation, suggesting that substrate utilization of tetracycline to the biomass was limiting their bioavailability. During the experiments, tetracycline was partially removed either through biodegradation or conversion into its by-products. The adverse long-term impact was quite variable for fermenting heterotrophic and methanogenic fractions of the microbial community based on changes inflicted on the composition of remaining/residual organic substrate. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.