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Bioremediation in Human Welfare

The use of naturally occurring or genetically engineered microorganisms to reduce or degrade pollutants is called bioremediation. Bioremediation is less expensive and more sustainable than other remediations available. It is grouped into in situ bioremediation (treatment of contaminated soil or water in the site) and ex situ bioremediation (treatment of contaminated soil or water that is removed from the site and treated).

Microorganisms involved in bioremediation

Aerobic microbes degrade the pollutants in the presence of oxygen. They mainly degrade pesticides and hydrocarbons. Pseudomonas putida is a genetically engineered microorganism (GEM). Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty obtained patent for this recombinant bacterial strain. It is multi- plasmid hydrocarbon degrading bacterium which can digest the hydrocarbons in the oil spills (Fig. 8.4).
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Nitrosomonas europaea is also capable of degrading benzene and a variety of halogenated organic compounds including trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride. Ideonella sakaiensis is currently tried for recycling of PET plastics (Fig. 8.5). These bacteria use PETase and MHETase enzymes to breakdown PET plastic into terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol.
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Anaerobic microbes degrade the pollutants in the absence of oxygen. Dechloromonas aromatica has the ability to degrade benzene anaerobically and to oxidize toluene and xylene. Phanerochaete chrysosporium an anaerobic fungus exhibits strong potential for bioremediation of pesticides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dyes, trinitrotoluene, cyanides, carbon tetrachloride, etc., Dehalococcoides species are responsible for anaerobic bioremediation of toxic trichloroethene to non-toxic ethane.

Pestalotiopsis microspora is a species of endophytic fungus capable of breaking down and digesting polyurethane. This makes the fungus a potential candidate for bioremediation projects involving large quantities of plastics.