The use of biological agents in the treatment and cleanup of contaminated sites continues to be explored and implemented in innovated ways, and the scientific community is getting a better sense of the microscopic world that controls the cycling of nutrients and compounds found naturally and added anthropogenically in the environment. Virtually every exploitable habitat owes its success to the microbial community that transform seemingly unusable sources of energy into the necessary compounds other organisms need to survive. This is true wherever life is found on this planet, and microorganisms have been working tirelessly to digest the new pollutants and macromolecules that we deposit in the soil and water. One such source of contamination is pharmaceutical wastewater, both on the industrial and residential level. Only part of the pills we take and chemicals we otherwise consume usually stay in the body. The rest is flushed out of our bodies and into the environment. Bacteria have the ability to degrade most compounds into smaller compounds, which usually results in energy for the bacteria and less harmful molecules in the soil. Lately, researchers across the globe have been successful in culturing microorganisms with the intent of increasing their ability to digest pollutants. Sometimes that process is not difficult and can be accomplished with just the application of yeast, which is what Uwadiae and his team did in this study.—Edward McLean
Uwadiae S. E, Yerima Y, Azike R. U 2011 Enzymatic biodegradation of pharmaceutical wastewater. International Journal of Energy and Environment Volume 2, Issue 4, 2011 pp.683-690.
Bioremediation is often pointed to as a solution for wastewater treatment in developing countries because it is low-cost and universally accessible, rarely requiring excessive, expensive equipment. If the remediation work can be done in situ, it can cost no more than the microorganisms themselves. Wastewater treatment in Nigeria fits this profile and is a growing concern; potable drinking water is often contaminated by wastewater from the country’s industry. This experiment set out to provide a framework for future researchers interested in cheap bioremediation that can be accomplished simply by the addition of enzymes to the affected area. Here, Uwadiae made a solution of wastewater with yeast and amalayse treatments and tested it against a control that contained no added enzymes. For six weeks, levels of various contaminants, such as antiinflammatories, antibiotics, beta-blockers, blood lipid regulators, and antidepressants, were recorded along with their reduction in the solution. By the end of the experiment, Uwadiae and his team recorded promising results and found that both the yeast and amalyase had sped up or at least aided in the bioremediation of industrial pharmaceutical wastewater. They reported that the wastewater could eventually be treated entirely this way, but given the short time period of only six weeks, full degradation did not occur. They found that yeast is more effective in enhancing the rate of degradation than amalyase, but both are suitable amendments. Further research should be done into other enzymes that work in concert with a family or genus of bacteria; that way, the microbial community will grow and therefore digest contaminants more quickly. Despite its safety and low-cost nature, bioremediation projects are often stifled by the time it takes to complete them. The process can be slow and uncontrollable, but if solutions are found that galvanize microbial activity, bioremediation may begin to gain popularity in both the developing and industrial world.