Fungal strains gorge on pollution

2013-01-16 13:01
Scientists from Iran have identified local strains of fungi that have the ability to digest petroleum compounds

Scientists from Iran have identified local strains of fungi that have the ability to digest petroleum compounds (Shutterstock)

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Cape Town – Scientists from Iran have identified local strains of fungi that have the ability to digest petroleum compounds making it potentially useful in pollution clean-ups.

Scidevnet reports that some of the isolated fungal strains from oil-contaminated sites within the Arak refinery in Iran were able to cut the amount of petroleum pollution in the soil by more than half.

The research, published in the Iranian Journal of Environmental Health Science & Engineering, showed that strains from Alternaria and Penicillium were the most effective at reducing the amount of petroleum.

These strains managed to decrease petroleum by around 55% in experiments where sterile soils were contaminated with 8% crude oil, a medium level of pollution.

Abdolkarim Chehregani Rad, associate professor at Bu Ali Sina University in Iran, says that “fungi’s resistance to petroleum pollution allows them to grow in contaminated areas; they have higher biomass so can spread in polluted areas, and they show a high activity of enzymes that break down the oil”.

The use of living organisms for cleaning up pollution is called bioremediation. When the process involves fungi it is called mycoremediation after mycology, the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi.

Hyperaccumulating fungi have the ability to concentrate heavy metals in the mushroom fruit bodies. This mycelium secretes enzymes and acids which breakdown the main building blocks of plant fibre, carbon and hydrogen. These are structurally similar to organic pollutants.

- Some information sourced from Scidevnet and Wikipedia.

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