Kerala scientist finds 'oil-eating' bacteria

Thiruvananthapuram, A scientist from Kerala has discovered three new species of oil-degrading bacteria from industrial waste.

R.B. Smitha of the Malabar Botanical Garden (MBG) in Kozhikode discovered one new species of pseudomonas and two new species of burkholderia, widely known as good bio-degraders of toxic and tough compounds.

The discovery was made as part of her Young Scientist Project - Isolation and purification of Catechol 2,3 dioxygenase, a key hydrocarbon degrading enzyme present in industrial waste.

The project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

MBG is an institution under the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) focusing on the conservation of aquatic plants, medicinal plants and species belonging to the lower plant category.

The young scientist was awarded Ph.D. in Biotechnology in 2010 by the Enzyme Technology Laboratory, University of Calicut.

Her study has resulted in the discovery of two new members in the genus burkholderia which consists of a number of versatile bacteria that occupy a wide range of ecological niches.

Some of them are capable of breaking down toxic compounds found in pesticides and herbicides and others found to repress pathogens present in soil and help promote crop growth.

Burkholderia strains have exceptional metabolic versatility and can also be used for bioremediation, a process for removing waste and pollutants from contaminated sites using microbes or other organisms.

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