Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Highlighted at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM)
The ASM meeting, which drew over 15,000 attendees, was held in Washington, D.C., on May 19-22. NABIR funded research was presented in six invited talks and over 45 additional scientific papers. NABIR researchers reported their findings in a full-day session entitled Bioreduction of metals and bioremediation of metal-contaminated soils, as well as sessions on Subsurface microbiology, Environmental restoration microbiology, Molecular microbial ecology and others. Highlights included research by Dr. Joel Kostka (Florida State University) who has identified novel metal reducing microorganisms from acidic, contaminated subsurface sediments at the NABIR Field Research Center at the Oak Ridge Reservation. These microbes are unique and unrelated to any previously cultured metal reducers. Uranium and nitric acid were co-disposed at a number of DOE sites, so the identification of an acid-tolerant metal-reducing microbe is of great importance to bioremediation at those sites. Another highlight was a report by Dr. Ray Wildung (PNNL) on an interesting offshoot of his NABIR-funded research on reduction of the pertechnetate ion (Tc(VII)O4-) by Shewanella putrefaciens. The ion is widely used in imaging; however, the chemical reductant (SnCl2) used in commercial synthesis may result in a number of potentially undesirable competitive ions and reaction products. Dr. Wildung demonstrated the feasibility of using Shewanella isolated from a subsurface environment for an enzymatic reduction of Tc avoiding the potential problems and meeting the medical imaging requirements. Two government patents have been issued for the process and for a prototype kit for hospitals. This project exemplifies how basic research may impact several different fields; in this case, both environmental remediation and medical science.