Oil-degrading bacteria to undergo field trials

The Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute of Plant Sciences, Kozhikode, has joined hands with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) for field trials to establish the oil-degrading properties of three new strains of bacteria, paving the way for the development of bioremediation agents to clean up petroleum pollutants from the environment.

“The key hydrocarbon-degrading enzyme produced by the bacteria has been isolated and purified and laboratory tests have been successful. We have joined hands with the BPCL for field trials to establish its bioremediation properties.

“A pilot plant is being established at Kochi,” says R. Prakashkumar, Director, MBGIPS. Microorganisms have enzyme systems to degrade and utilise hydrocarbons as a source of carbon and energy.


Across the world, bioremediation (the use of microorganisms to degrade environmental pollutants) is evolving as a safer, environment-friendly mechanism to clean up the contamination caused by leaks and accidental spills during the exploration, refining, transport, and storage of petroleum products. Conventional methods like mechanical removal, burial, evaporation, dispersion, and washing are expensive and can lead to incomplete decomposition, leaving residual contaminants to pollute soil and water.

Since 2014, when R.B. Smitha, scientist at MBGIPS, had reported the discovery of three new strains of oil- degrading bacteria, the institute has been involved in efforts to isolate and purify the enzyme, Catechol 2,3- dioxygenase, produced by the microorganisms.

New strains

The three new strains including two species of Burkholderia and one species of Pseudomonas have been sequenced and submitted to the Genbank database on organisms.

Last week, scientists at the institute completed the sequencing of a new species of oil-degrading soil fungi belonging to the Paecilomyces genus.

They have also isolated 110 dye-yielding and anti-microbial compounds from two species of bryophytes (lower group of plants like mosses and hornworts). “Besides, we have isolated 30 anti-bacterial compounds from two species of lichens,” Mr. Prakashkumar said.

The institute has tied up with the Inter University Centre for Biosciences, Kannur University, for structural elucidation of the compounds.

It is one of the few facilities dedicated to the conservation of and research on aquatic plant diversity, lower group plants and endangered plants of north Kerala.

Last year, a team led by Dr. Smitha had isolated six strains of bacteria capable of breaking down plastic into biodegradable polymers.

The key hydrocarbon-degrading enzyme has been isolated and laboratory tests have been successful.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 12:08:47 PM |

Next Story