Blog.Dec 11, 2015

Microorganisms and water: a controversial relationship

Why is the relationship between microorganisms and water controversial? Because there are the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. It depends on where they live (i.e. rivers, lagoons or wastewater) and how people can be affected by them.

The role of the microorganisms in the environment has been extensively evaluated in the attempt to analyze which is the best way to use them in favor for the population. Many of these studies were presented in the VI International Conference on Environmental, Industrial and Applied Microbiology ( held in Barcelona, Spain on 28-30 October 2015. Biodeterioration, biodegradation, bioremediation and environmental, marine and aquatic microbiology were among the most interesting topics covered.

Some microorganisms play an important role in the biodegradation process of persistent compounds such as pesticides, oil and textile dyes. These ones are the “good guys” since they are able to degraded toxic compounds in the industrial wastewater. They are also essential in the sewage treatment.

I have been researching the dye biodegradation in order to improve the textile wastewater treatment, since those industries have a complex and toxic effluent. The results have been shown that the microorganisms are an excellent alternative for this purpose.

Now, we have the “bad guys”, the pathogenic microorganisms, which means that they can cause damage to human health. Some species, Escherichia coli for instance, can be harmful when found in drinking water. The developing countries still have health problems related to water quality. However, there are many ways to treat the water in order to avoid the contamination by bacteria, fungi, etc. A great effort has been made by the scientific community in order to improve the water treatment techniques.

Despite all these problems, I believe we still need microorganisms for both environmental and biotechnological development. We have explored the bacteria and fungi enzymes for a long time and the benefits are quite satisfactory. Therefore, yes, we can coexist and take advantage of what they have to offer.