Focus on Molecular Biological Tools

Focus on Molecular Biological Tools

We’ve come a long way in our ability to understand and monitor microbial communities that clean up a growing range of contaminants. Characterization of microbial communities in soil, sediment and groundwater using molecular biological tools (MBTs) has been performed for more than two decades and is now considered routine. As the number of known microorganisms and functional genes for bioremediation continues to increase, a growing suite of commercially available tests are used to understand remediation of organic and inorganic contaminants (e.g., chlorinated solvents, MTBE, 1,4-dioxane, BTEX, mercury, nitrogen compounds).

The past few years have seen the use of next generation sequencing (NGS) rapidly increasing our ability to characterize whole microbial communities in a cost-effective manner. A Danish PCE site is profiled in this issue where NGS identified a complex community of dechlorinators and other microbial groups that provided a clearer understanding of remediation processes at this complex MNA site.

“In the future we will sequence everything all the time.”

– Josh Neufeld, Professor, University of Waterloo

The development of metagenomics, the sequencing of all genes from all organisms in a sample, is the next big leap in site characterization. Not only will we be able to identify numerous Bacteria and Archaea, but all of their functional genes plus fungi, protists, and viruses such as bacteriophages. Metagenomics will provide “a full ecosystem approach” to assess bioremediation processes. SiREM’s Webinar (17
January 2018) focuses on metagenomics, with Professor Laura Hug, from the University of Waterloo, a leading researcher in the field.

University of Waterloo Professor, Josh Neufeld stated that “in the future we will sequence everything all the time”. We are entering an era of advanced biological characterization that will be used to predict performance, optimize bioremediation systems and reduce costs; an outcome that has been referred to as “precision bioremediation”.

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