Researchers Identified Novel Bacterium for Cleaning Oil Spills

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Researchers from INRS Canada isolated a bacterium to clean up oil spills using specific enzymes

Researchers isolated the key enzymes that bacteria called Alcanivorax borkumensis, uses to clean oil samples in lab. Oil spills are major environmental concern, as the Deepwater Horizon disaster demonstrated back in 2010. Researchers are working on developing wide range of materials, meshes and nanoparticles, along with more outlandish schemes such as vacuum cleaners, microsubmarines and strange forms of fire to clean up oil spills, as ocean currents can spread petroleum much farther than might be expected, and the particles can leach into sand and soil, remaining there for years or even decades.

A. borkumensis is commonly found bacterium in all oceans worldwide. This microorganism breakdown hydrocarbons found in oil. The INRS team studied the enzymes this bacterium uses to break it down and isolated hydroxylases as the most effective ones. As a part of the study, team examined purified samples on contaminated soil samples and reported promising results. “The degradation of hydrocarbons using the crude enzyme extract is really encouraging and reached over 80 percent for various compounds,” said Satinder Kaur Brar, lead researcher on the study. “The process is effective in removing benzene, toluene, and xylene, and has been tested under a number of different conditions to show that it is a powerful way to clean up polluted land and marine environments.”

Researchers are further working identifying metabolic pathways of A. borkumensis, which it utilizes to metabolize these hydrocarbons and figure out how they can clean up real-life oil spills. The study was published in the Biochemical Engineering Journal.

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