Bioremediation uses microbes to break down organic contaminants in polluted soil or water in order to restore or protect natural resources. One example involves using microbes to remove the chlorinated contaminants in the groundwater. The process can take a while, depending on factors such as the size of the polluted area, the amount of chemicals present, and the conditions of the area. Dehalococcoides bacteria are needed for bioremediation of chlorinated organic pollutants but it is difficult to isolate and maintain cultures of these bacteria. It turns out two spirochetes — Sphaerochaeta globus and Sphaerochaeta pleomorpha — enhance the bacterium’s performance and growth.
Researchers hope the spirochetes’ genome sequences will allow them to learn more about the bacteria’s needs so they can improve its bioremediation efforts. The genomic information could also prove useful to medical researchers studying diseases caused by spirochetes such as Lyme disease and syphilis.
Principal Investigators: Frank Loeffler, Georgia Institute of Technology
Program: CSP 2009