Navigation Links
'Bacterial shock' to recapture essential phosphate

Bacteria could be exploited to recapture dwindling phosphate reserves from wastewater according to research presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin this week.

Phosphorus in the form of phosphate - is essential for all living things as a component of DNA and RNA and its role in cellular metabolism. Around 38 million tonnes of phosphorus are extracted each year from rock. Most of this extracted phosphorus goes into the production of fertilizers to replace the phosphates that plants remove from the soil. However, it is a scare natural resource and current estimates suggest that reserves of phosphate rock may only last for the next 45-100 years.

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) are developing a novel biological process to remove extracted phosphate from wastewater where it ultimately ends up after manufacturing. Dr John McGrath who is leading the project explained, "Phosphate in wastewater is a pollutant that causes increased growth of algae and plants, reducing the oxygen available for aquatic organisms. This is known as eutrophication and poses the single biggest threat to water quality in Northern Ireland and indeed globally."

The work at QUB has focused on microorganisms that capture and store phosphate from wastewater, and how this process varies under different nutritional and environmental conditions. "A variety of microbes in wastewater accumulate phosphorus inside their cells and store it as a biopolymer known as polyphosphate. In some cases, this can represent up to 20% of the dry weight of the microorganism!" explained Dr McGrath. "If we can harness this process we have a feasible biotechnological route to remove and recycle phosphate from wastewater."

The team have recently discovered a physiological 'shock' treatment which significantly increases microbial uptake of phosphorus and its accumulation inside cells. "It's similar to jumping into the sea on a winter's day the first thing you do is take a sharp intake of breath. When we shock the microorganisms, their response is to take in phosphorus," explained Dr McGrath. "We've demonstrated this using activated sludge, containing a variety of microbes, from wastewater treatment works and shown this shock treatment is effective at producing a phosphorus-rich biomass suitable for phosphorus recycling."

Dr McGrath believes that developing such biotechnological processes is essential for regenerating valuable mineral resources. "No alternative to phosphorus exists we urgently need to find ways of recovering and recycling phosphates. It's a pollutant we can't live without." he said. "Phosphates are currently removed from wastewater by chemical methods, however this is expensive and results in the production of large volumes of sludge. In contrast, the process we are developing is sustainable and efficient."

Contact: Laura Udakis
Society for General Microbiology

Related biology news :

1. New function of a bacterial photoresponsive protein: Resisting adhesion of mammalian cells
2. Bacterial plasmids -- the freeloading and the heavy-lifters -- balance the high price of disease
3. Polar growth at the bacterial scale reveals potential new targets for antibiotic therapy
4. Gulf of Mexico topography played key role in bacterial consumption of Deepwater Horizon spill
5. UGA scientists hijack bacterial immune system
6. Targeted antibacterial proteins may offer antibiotic alternative
7. Targeting bacterial gas defenses allow for increased efficacy of numerous antibiotics
8. Bacterial genes tell the tale of an outbreaks evolution
9. Texas A&M center confronts antibiotic crisis with potential new bacterial treatment
10. Researchers generate first complete 3-D structures of bacterial chromosome
11. University of California Santa Barbara study reveals how gas, temperature controlled bacterial response to Deepwater Horizon spill
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/16/2015)... 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), ... announced expansion of its TDDI product portfolio with ... and display driver integration (TDDI) solutions designed to ... TDDI products add to the previously-announced TD4300 ... resolution), and TD4322 (FHD resolution) solutions. All four ...
(Date:11/11/2015)...   MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based eClinical technology ... pleased to announce that it will be a Sponsor of ... to be held November 17-19 in Hamburg ... of iMedNet , MedNet,s easy-to-use, proven and ... has been able to deliver time and cost savings of ...
(Date:11/9/2015)... 9, 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), ... broader entry into the automotive market with a comprehensive ... pace of consumer electronics human interface innovation. Synaptics, industry-leading ... for the automotive industry and will be implemented in ... Europe , Japan , and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... MUMBAI , November 26, 2015 ... --> Accutest Research ... accredited Contract Research Organization (CRO), has ... Chase Cancer Center - Temple Health ... ,     (Photo: ) ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 Studies reveal the ... plaque and pave the way for more effective treatment for ...     --> --> ... health problems in cats, yet relatively little was understood about ... studies have been conducted by researchers from the WALTHAM Centre ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Nov. 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... in a fireside chat discussion at the Piper Jaffray ... . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, December ... .  A replay will be available for 14 ... , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business Development ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Cepheid (NASDAQ: ... speaking at the following conference, and invited investors to ... NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 ... NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 ... Conference, New York, NY      Tuesday, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: