Characterization of Bacterial Biofilms for Wastewater Treatment
Abstract: Research performed at the Division of Environmental Microbiology has over the last years resulted in the isolation of possible bacterial key-organisms with efficient nutrient removal properties (Comamonas denitrificans, Brachymonas denitrificans, Aeromonas hydrophila). Effective use of these organisms for enhanced nutrient removal in wastewater treatment applications requires the strains to be retained, to proliferate and to maintain biological activity within theprocess. This can be achieved by immobilization of the organisms using an appropriate system.Two putative immobilization systems, agar entrapment and biofilm formation, wereassessed. Surface attached biofilm growth provided better results with respect to cell retention,proliferation and microbial activity than immobilization in agar beads. Thus, biofilm physiology was further characterized using simplified systems of single, dual or multi strain bacterial consortia containing the key-organisms as well as other wastewater treatment isolates. Mechanisms for initial adherence, biofilm formation over time, dynamics and characteristics of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and exopolysaccharides, nutrient removal activity as well as the effect of bacterial interactions were investigated. The results showed that all theassessed bacterial strains could form single strain biofilm providing that a suitable nutrientsupply was given. Production of EPS was found to be critical for biofilm development and both EPS and polysaccharide residue composition varied with bacterial strain, culture conditions and biofilm age. Denitrification and phosphorus removal activity of the keyorganisms was maintained in biofilm growth. Co-culturing of two or more strains resulted in both synergistic and antagonistic effects on biofilm formation as well as the microbial activitywithin the biofilm. Bacterial interactions also induced the synthesis of new polysaccharideswhich were not produced in pure strain biofilms.The complexity of single and mixed strain biofilm development and the implications of interactions on biofilm performance were underlined in this study. The data presented can be useful for modeling of biofilm systems, serve as a tool for selection of bacterial strain combinations to use for bioaugmentation/bioremediation or provide a base for further experiment design.
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