From recycling car batteries to tackling plastic pollution, bacteria has been increasingly under the microscope of scientists working to provide solutions to some of the most challenging global issues. Most recently, researchers in India have discovered a strain of bacteria that can filter contaminated water and make it suitable for drinking.
Coming from the Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (IIT-BHU), the scientists named the bacteria “microbacterium paraoxydans VSVM IIT (BHU)”, and found that it can separate toxic hexavalent chromium from water in an effective and sustainable way.
As noted by Interesting Engineering, hexavalent chromium is a toxic metal used in electroplating, welding, and chromate painting, among other things. If ingested, the toxic metal can lead to serious health problems in humans like cancers, kidney and liver malfunction, and infertility.
Compared to current approaches that target this pollutant, the newly found bacterial strain can tolerate much higher amounts of hexavalent chromium, making it particularly successful at filtering the harmful substance out of wastewater.
As explained by study lead author Dr. Vishal Mishra, the bacteria can “easily cultivate and remove hexavalent chromium in an effective way. No skilled labor is required for this. It is inexpensive, non-toxic, and easy to use/employ. Also, separation after usage does not require large energy input and removes hexavalent chromium until the discharge limit of the Central Pollution Control Board.”
While additional research is needed to better assess the properties of this new bacteria, the researchers say that the technique could have a meaningful impact in places where water scarcity is particularly acute, such as India where access to clean drinking water is considered a privilege in some of the country’s regions.
As the water crisis is expected to exacerbate in the coming decades, the new technique could be one of the many innovations used by researchers to help local governments around the world to bring fresh drinking water to their communities in an efficient and eco-friendly way.
Study source: Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering — Microbial removal of Cr (VI) by a new bacterial strain isolated from the site contaminated with coal mine effluents