Bacteria's Role in Our World
By: Jesus H.F. and Yayati T.
a member of a large group of unicellular microorganisms that have cell walls but lack organelles and an organized nucleus, including some that can cause disease.
synonyms:microorganisms, microbes, germs, bacilli, pathogens, prokaryotes; More
Alcanivorax borkumensis is a type of bacteria that help humans cleanup oils spills.The recent investigations found that the bacterium were particularly effective at processing alkanes with carbon chain lengths of between 12 and 19 carbon atoms. "The cell growth confirmed that this bacterium is not only able to take up the intermediates of fatty acids in its own body but also to convert them," explains Dr. Hermann J. Heipieper. This method was recently found in 2013 and it's currently in use for oil spills over the world.A. borkumensis is found in low numbers. This is due to the limited availability of nutrients, namely phosphorus and nitrogen. However, in oil-contaminated water, the addition of phosphorus and nitrogen allows A. borkumensis populations to thrive.A. borkumensis can use n-alkanes, aliphatic hydrocarbons, volatile fatty acids and pyruvate as carbon and energy sources. When using only n-alkanes as carbon and energy sources, A. borkumensis produces extracellular and membrane-bound glucose lipids termed biosurfactants. Biosurfactants are crucial to the biodegradation of oil because they reduce surface tension of water and act as natural emulsifiers to elute oil out of water, making it available to biodegrade.
Until now, chemicals have often been used to clean up oil disasters, to break up the oil/water emulsion, making oil more soluble and thus removing it from the surface water. In the oil spill in 2010 at the Gulf of Mexico dispersants were used to "fight off" the oil spill. They used chemicals from a brand called Corexit. What this chemical do was basically just make oil more soluble so that it is cleared from the surface of the water. From that point forward scientist have been on the run to find alternatives to protect the environments in the ocean so they are completely restored.
Non-biodegradable and far too ubiquitous on this planet, plastic becomes a big problem when it comes to disposal. But in 2008, a Canadian student carried out a truly amazing science experiment in which bacteria were able to consume plastic. Since then, research teams have been working on developing this ability and using it to our benefit. A professor at the University of Dublin got the bacteria to metabolize cooked-down plastic bottles into a new type of plastic that’s actually biodegradable.
- Viewpoint: How do our bacteria help us?. (n.d.). BBC News. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15356016
- Layton, J. (2010, February 10). In what new ways can bacteria help shrink our landfills?. HowStuffWorks. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/bacteria-landfill.htm