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Role of Microbiology in Environmental Biotechnology
The restoration, maintenance and protection of the environment with the help of biological agents, which includes both the living organisms and their components along with the physical, chemical and engineering processes is known as Environmental Biotechnology. Industrial Microbiology also plays an important role in the preservation of the environment. Hence, in many cases, Microbiology and environmental Biotechnology go hand in hand and both are interdependent on each other.

Environmental Biotechnology is mainly concerned with the removal and treatment of the wastes, solid or liquid, from various sources like the industrial, domestic, municipal, or agricultural. The main part is in the conversion or degradation of the xenobiotic compounds, which are released into the environment by the wastewater streams of industries. The ever-increasing population has caused the disposal of different types of wastes into the environment. This has resulted in the pollution of both land and water environment. Due to the seriousness of the issue of pollution of the water bodies, various steps are being taken for the treatment of the wastes. The wastes from domestic and commercial sources are treated to make them chemically and biologically harmless by nitrification and removal of suspended and dissolved harmful compounds. These types of treatment not only prevent the spread of epidemic water-borne diseases, but also the pollution of potable water supplies, land and water contamination, etc. Various types of analysis of the water sources are done like the Biological oxygen demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), total suspended solids (TSS), total solids (TS), etc to determine the polluting strength of the wastes and after proper analysis, the type of treatment to be done is determined.

In the present times, the treatment of the wastewater has become one of the major applications of biotechnology. The industrial wastewater is more polluted than the domestic sewage. The different options for the treatment of the wastewater are:

a) Biological, which includes various aerobic and anaerobic processes,
b) Chemical, which includes electrochemical processes, coagulation, etc,
c) Physical, which includes sedimentation, etc

In most of the cases, all the three methods are employed for the treatment of the wastewater. The wastewater first undergoes primary treatment involving sedimentation followed by secondary treatment involving biological process with microbes. The aerobic treatment of the wastewater involves the bringing into contact of the wastewater with the aerobes and oxygen, which gives rise to excess biomass and CO2 in the process, thereby reducing the efficiency of the process. The anaerobic treatment involves the interaction of the facultative and the obligate anaerobic organisms, thereby producing methane, CO2, etc with very less formation of new cells and hence biomass.

Composting is another method used for the processing of solid organic wastes by microorganisms. The solid wastes are converted to humified product used for increasing the fertility of the soil by a sequence of microbial processes including fermentation. Xenobiotics are compounds that are not recognised by the microorganisms and hence remain in native form in the environment, as they are not degraded easily. They remain so due to their complex structures and absence of one or more steps in the sequence of biodegradation including the formation of toxic intermediates. However, extensive research in the present times has made possible the biodegradation of the xenobiotics by the formation of genetically engineered microorganisms, which can degrade them and treatment with immobilized enzymes for degradation.

The other process of removing the toxic solid wastes in the land and water is bioremediation. Bioremediation involves the utilization of the indigenous microorganisms by enhancing their growth by the addition of specific nutrients in the soil and water in order to detoxify the wastes present in situ. Biomining or the mineral leaching with the use of microorganisms to extract minerals from tough, low-grade ores, sludges, and wastes is also a major advancement in environmental biotechnology. The use of genetically engineered microorganisms yields their better resistance to temperature, pH, etc thereby making the process much easier. The microbes are now being used for the desulphurization of the fuels like coal thus helping largely in the prevention of formation of pollutants like SO2, which are formed during the burning of coal. The generation of genetically engineered microorganisms for use as bioinsecticides is also a major turning point, thereby reducing the use of chemicals as insecticides, which may cause pollution indirectly. Thus, major advances in environmental biotechnology with the use of microbiology are proving to be a boon for the welfare of the living community of the environment.
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What I like the most about bioremediation is that microorganisms used for “cleaning” could serve multiple purposes after they finish their primary industrial role.

Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is green microalgae cultivated worldwide and used as a food supplement, to enhance detoxification of the organism, to improve digestive health, to increase muscle mass in athletes, to support cardiovascular function and improve cholesterol level, to strength the immune system, to reduce allergy in children, to decrease cancer risks and to provide general health. It could be used in a form of tablets, powder or flake.

It’s very popular food supplements as it contains all necessary nutrients. 60% of algea’s dry weight is protein (containing all essential amino acids), plus it’s rich in carbohydrates, vitamins, pigments, antioxidants…. Lipids content is not very high (7%) but all important lipids like: gamma-linolenic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, stearidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, and arachidonic acid are present. List of vitamins in Spirulina is long: B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin E. All vital microelements such as K, Ca, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mg, Mn, P, Se, Na and Zn, could be obtained from Spirulina as well. Pigments are acting as antioxidants, providing protection against various infections and diseases and slowing down aging process. Most important antioxidants for human health that could be found in Spirulina are: beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, chlorophyll-a, diatoxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, xanthophyll, canthaxanthin…

Studies in human and animals showed that Spirulina is safe and doesn’t have any adverse effect when replacing conventional proteins in diet. Those were experiments having Spirulina grown in the clear water; effluent water as a cultivating medium has never been used before.

Due to increased need for fish proteins in the world, fish farming became very popular method of raising fish in tanks and enclosures that will eventually be sold as a food. In 2008, 33.8 million tones of fish worth ~60 billion dollars were produced in the world. Maintaining of the tanks (temperature, pH, acidity, micronutrients…) and providing enough food for the fish are what make pisciculture (fish farming) very expensive business. A lot of different fish species are raised this way, most commonly tilapia, cod, salmon, carp and catfish. Some of those species are carnivorous and some are depending on the plankton and water plants. In either way, proper nutritious is essential as fish biomass and quality of meat is directly associated with the provided meals. Tilapia is very old herbivorous fish species raised often for food as it grows fast and could tolerate poor water quality. Spirulina could be a good food source for the fish and experiment with algae grown on the effluent water was undertaken to check if this is could be safe and nutritionally satisfying source of food for the tilapia.

Gelatin is used in pharmaceutical (medicine capsules), food (jellied desserts), and paper and photo industry (photographic plate coatings). It’s made by boiling animal derived connective tissue (bones, tendons…). Effluent from the gelatin manufacturing industry needs to pass couple of treatments before used as a cultivation media for Spirulina. Close attention was paid on the growth, metabolism and reproduction of the fish. First group of fish was fed on regular diet (control group), second group had 30% of regular diet replaced with waste water harvested Spirulina and third group was fed up on 50% of Spirulina meals. Experiment lasted for 120 days and results were better than expected.

Survival rate in all group were the same. Growth rate was higher in Spirulina fed groups; fish were longer, wider and heavier in two group eating Spirulina meals. Reproductive behavior, metabolic functions, excretion and movements were unchanged compared to control group.

This experiment provides valuable information for two reasons. First it’s shown that Spirulina grown in the waste water could be a perfect substitute for the expensive conventional fish food. Second it showed that classic fish meal could be replaced by 50% with Spirulina without causing any adverse effects. This is very important finding considering that fish farming is large industry that is looking for any solution that could help decrease expenses, but at the same time could solve the problem of waste water in the industry of various kinds.
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Environmental biotechnology is the application of biotechnology,for solving environmental problems,in environment and man made ecosystem.This can be achieved by applying ecological principles and cooperating with the microbiota based on a "join them" instead of "beat them" strategy.
Environmental microbiology concerns with microbial process in the environment.Application today,where microorganism are used for environmental restoration are wastewater treatment and biomediation processes.
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Microbes - where not it is present? They are present within us and around us and in all essentials (air, water, food, soil) used by us. There are both beneficial microbes and pathogenic microbes and the outcome of various studies on microbes is remarkable for these microscopic creatures are inseparable part and parcel of this universe. The application of microbes in various fields of science dates back to ages and today they are widely used in Biotechnology industries, pharmaceutical industries, food and textile industry and in effective environment management. Yes the detection of microbes with the capacity to degrade various environmental pollutants is quite interesting for it can be used to treat the polluted environment (Bioremediation). The microbes used in bioremediation are either degraders by nature or genetically engineered to degrade the pollutants. Listed below are some of the microbes employed in bioremediation and the type of pollutant they act upon.

Pseudomonas putidaToluene, Naphthalene

Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Actinobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Flavobacteria, Staphylococcaceaoil spills

Dechloromonas aromatica Aromatic compounds, perchlorate

AcinetobacterAromatic compounds

Nitrosomonas europaea, Nitrobacter hamburgensis, Paracoccus denitrificans – Acts on ammonia, nitrite and nitrate compounds

Phanerochaete chrysosporiumPesticides, Poly aromatic hydro carbons, dioxins, dyes, cyanides, nitro based explosives

Psudomonas Species (Pseudomonas A3, Pseudomonas putida, Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and Serratia marinorubra - Fungicide

Deinococcus radioduransHeavy metals (This organism is genetically engineered to act upon ionic mercury based nuclear pollution).One of the research studies states the efficiency of species like Enterobacter, Stenotrophomonas, Chryseobacterium, Ochrobacterium in the removal of heavy metals like Copper, cadmium, cobalt and chromium respectively.

Geobacter metallireducensUranium

Bacillus species and Serratia merinorubra- Used to treat effluent from textile industries. These species acts upon the azo reactive dye present in the effluent and thus decolourizes the effluent.

Trichoderma virideEffluents from industries

There are various ongoing research studies in identifying the plastic degrading bacterial species and the positive outcome of these studies will provide a solution to the haunting plastic pollution.

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Microbiology changes has great role for changing environment biochemical changes.The certainty of having micro particles in environment due to waste and other factors really hazardous and has very adverse effects to environment.
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very nice and informative forum and posts,thanks for sharing
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Microbes exist because they have a big part in our ecology and in the conservation and preservation of the environment.
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