Sam Manna – La Trobe University Researcher Dr Steve Petrovski investigates the potential application of viruses in wastewater treatment

Posted by on 21 June 2015 | Comments

Recently, I had the opportunity to contribute to some work that focused on methods of wastewater treatment. While there are various methods to remove chemical contaminants, the removal of biological contaminant can be difficult. Among these possible methods is the use of bacteriophages to target bacteria that interfere with the wastewater treatment process. So I thought I would tell you all a little about it.

One of the biggest problems with wastewater treatment is sludge bulking (difficulties in separating biomass from the liquid phase) and foaming (layers formed at the surface of aerated reactors). Bulking and the stabilization of foams are caused by filamentous bacteria in wastewater and significantly impede its effective treatment. As a result, there is significant interest in identifying effective methods to remove these microbes. Among these methods is antimicrobial treatment but this is resulting in the emergence of resistant strains. Thus, alternative strategies are being sought.

Dr Steve Petrovski, head of the Microbial, Molecular Ecology and Genetics research laboratory at La Trobe University is searching for the solution. Dr Petrovski is investigating bacteriophages, viruses that can specifically infect and kill bacteria. His group has been begun to isolate and characterise bacteriophages that infect and kill specific bacteria responsible for foaming such as Gordonia, Skermania, Dietzia, Nocardia, Rhodococcus and Tsukamurella. Dr Petrovski is using next generation sequencing technologies to better understand these viruses and hopes to use them as a novel and environmentally friendly strategy to reduce the numbers of bacteria responsible for foam stabilization.

If you would like more information on the use of bacteriophages in wastewater treatment, check out the link below.