Designer microbiomes for bioremediation of PFAS

October 25th, 2022

Industrial factories operating near a water way. Credits - Luciann photography

Industrial factories operating near a water way. Credits – Luciann photography

The challenge

CSIRO has been working with industry partners to clean up contaminated sites through the use of microbes (Bioremediation). Our studies of contaminated sites are increasing our understanding of the role microorganisms play in contaminant removal. However, the following challenges have limited the success of bioremediation strategies:

  • Not all organic wastes and contaminants can currently be biodegraded using existing bioremediation technologies.
  • Without intelligent delivery systems, introduced microorganisms often fail to persist.
  • Treatment performance varies often due to unknown factors which hinders commercialisation and adoption.

This is particularly the case for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) often referred to as ‘forever’ chemicals for their persistence in the environment. Furthermore, these chemicals are ubiquitous, bioaccumulate and have been shown to have adverse health effects.

Our response

Multi-omics techniques will be used to identify the individual microbes that exist in these contaminated environments and to understand the specific role they play in that disturbed community.  Targeted interventions can be developed from individual microbes involved in the degradation process of PFAS. This can be achieved by identifying the key enzymatic processes required to complete the degradation and model microbial metabolisms involved in this process. Key taxa will be cultured, and designer microbiomes developed to support these (e.g. nutrient supply). This will help facilitate delivery of designer microbiomes into contaminated matrices, their persistence in the environment, and complete the degradation process of PFAS.

By David Spadaro

The team

Dr Falko Mathes Research scientist

Dr Amy Paten Research scientist

Dr Anna Kaksonen Group leader

Ms Lara Oppermann  PhD student

Dr Geoffrey Puzon Senior Research Scientist

Dr Ka Yu Cheng Senior Research Scientist

Dr Jason Kirby Group leader

Jason Wiley Research Technician

Christina Morris Experimental Scientist

Dr Andrew Warden Senior Research Scientist

Dr Matthew Taylor Research Scientist

Dr Jian-Wei Liu Senior Experimental Scientist