APR 30, 2015 3:45 PM PDT

Chalk Up Another One for Microbes: Cleaning Up the BP Oil Spill

WRITTEN BY: Robert Woodard
Vessels equipped with water cannons try to fight the devastating Deepwater Horizon fire.This must be the year (or decade) of the microbe.

Microbiologists must be feeling pretty smug these days. It seems that microbes are in the news every day. The microbiome has captured the interest of scientists, environmentalists, and health food enthusiasts. It has been given credit for our health and blamed for psychological problems. There are microbiome implants, a microbiome journal and even a human microbiome project sponsored by the NIH.

Now, results are coming in as to how well microbes are doing on cleaning up the massive British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon/Macondo oil spill.

Cleaning up oil spills is nothing new to microbes. The technology has been around for some time, and it's available to anyone. You can buy microbes for cleaning up oil from on Amazon and from UHAUL. By all accounts these microbial clean up products work pretty well. And according to an article in the April 28 issue of Scientific American, it sounds like oil-eating microbes did a good job on the 2010 BP oil spill.

The article quotes biogeochemist Chris Reddy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: "The microbes did a spectacular job of eating a lot of the natural gas. The rate and capacity is a mind-boggling testament to microbes."

As this quote suggests, microbes are most effective at eating relatively small hydrocarbons such as those found in natural gas, so they did well at cleaning up Louisiana light, which is made up of sweet crude oil mixed with natural gas. It also helped that many of these smaller molecules are water soluble. In the case of the BP oil spill, ocean currents continuously mixed the oil with water and made it possible for the bacteria to turn millions of barrels of water in to an estimated 100 sextillion microbial cells composed of ethane-consuming ethane-consuming Colwellia, aromatic-eating Cycloclasticus, alkane-eating Oceanospirillales, oil-eating Alcanovorax, methane-loving Methylococcaceae and other species.

[Source: scientificamerican.com]
About the Author
You May Also Like
DEC 15, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 15, 2019
Using a Bacterial Syringe to Deliver Proteins to Cells
Researchers want to use a pathogen's strategy for therapeutic purposes....
DEC 18, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 18, 2019
Germs don't stand a chance with new AI-powered diagnostic platform
We are steadily losing our edge in the war against infectious bacteria. A huge surge in antibiotic resistance is threatening healthcare and agricultural in...
FEB 05, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 05, 2020
Gut Bacteria Affect How the Colon Moves
The contraction and relaxation of muscles in the wall of the colon helps move food along and can become dysfunctional....
FEB 17, 2020
Immunology
FEB 17, 2020
Another HIV vaccine attempt fizzles out
Years of work and over $100 million in study costs have been abandoned after an HIV-vaccine tested in South Africa failed to protect treated individuals ag...
FEB 21, 2020
Health & Medicine
FEB 21, 2020
Should You Really be Scared of the Coronavirus?
As of February 21st, the death toll for coronavirus reached 2,250, 55,707 currently infected, of which 12,066 (22%) are in a serious or critical condition....
FEB 26, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 26, 2020
NIAID Tests Remdesivir as a Treatment for COVID-19
A case of coronavirus has now occured in the US in someone without a known link to an infected person or travel....
Loading Comments...