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Bioremediation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons

Bioremediation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons


One of the features of the economic development of the last century is the progressive and rapid deterioration of the environment. Apparently the combination of "development is equal to environmental pollution" was also captured the collective imagination as an equation necessary and inevitable. However, the time has come to reverse this trend and run for cover (Yudono 2010, pp. 155). The recipe that microbiologists propose is very simple: at least in part to repair the devastating consequences of human activity on the planet, we must ask for help from microorganisms.


The health of the environment and man is closely related. It is, therefore, surprising to note how the pages of newspapers rarely give room for research on environmental remediation; contrary, the news about the studies on the human genome and human diseases (some due to the deterioration of the environmental status) are the most media attention. It follows that the strategic importance of research on the human genome also prevail in the guidelines of the National Research Programs (NRP) of the industrialized countries for all the implied consequences of production processes and technology that "rotate" around the issue of human disease: technical of recombinant DNA, the development of new cancer drugs, biocompatible materials, genetically engineered vaccines, biosensors. All this is not surprising and in some ways considered "politically correct" (Walworth 2008, pp. 57).

However, investment in what we might call the “big biology” is only partly justified. If it is obvious that the greatest beneficiary of studies on the human genome will, hopefully, all humanity, it is also true that the "meaning" of the human genome in the general context of all the organisms living is slight (Reynolds 2009, pp. 299). For example, in terms of diversity enzyme, our DNA contains the information to activate the metabolism of a small number of nutrients. Moreover, we humans can not resist in any way to sudden environmental changes, or chemical-physical abuse, demonstrating our limited metabolic adaptation. To all this we can add the extraordinary “microbial biodiversity”. The organisms are life forms that have been most successful in the colonization of our planet occupying all environments, including those defined extreme or inhospitable.

The most resistant compounds to degradative microorganisms are those with ties chlorine-carbon-carbon and nitrogen. Polychlorinated biphenyls, the chlorinated dioxins, nitro-aromatic compounds and the like, represent some of the substances that cause environmental alarm situations in the community when, incidentally, released into the biosphere. In this sense, microorganisms have come in contact with the myriad of xenobiotics compounds generated by humans only during the last 100 years, a period that represents a "blink" in terms of evolution.

This means that many of the bacteria that we know today have not yet "learned" to degrade many xenobiotics substances. The major environmental disasters have raised public awareness about issues related to developing a "clean chemistry" that produces biodegradable products (green chemistry) and the need to address the country's industrial and economic growth (Tang 2010, ...