• CUBE - Computational Systems Biology

  • DOME - Microbial Ecology

  • TER - Terrestrial Ecosystem Research

DMES News

Latest publications

Biodegradability standards for carrier bags and plastic films in aquatic environments: a critical review

Plastic litter is encountered in aquatic ecosystems across the globe, including polar environments and the deep sea. To mitigate the adverse societal and ecological impacts of this waste, there has been debate on whether ‘biodegradable' materials should be granted exemptions from plastic bag bans and levies. However, great care must be exercised when attempting to define this term, due to the broad and complex range of physical and chemical conditions encountered within natural ecosystems. Here, we review existing international industry standards and regional test methods for evaluating the biodegradability of plastics within aquatic environments (wastewater, unmanaged freshwater and marine habitats). We argue that current standards and test methods are insufficient in their ability to realistically predict the biodegradability of carrier bags in these environments, due to several shortcomings in experimental procedures and a paucity of information in the scientific literature. Moreover, existing biodegradability standards and test methods for aquatic environments do not involve toxicity testing or account for the potentially adverse ecological impacts of carrier bags, plastic additives, polymer degradation products or small (microscopic) plastic particles that can arise via fragmentation. Successfully addressing these knowledge gaps is a key requirement for developing new biodegradability standard(s) for lightweight carrier bags.

Harrison JP, Boardman C, O'Callaghan K, Delort A, Song J
2018 - Royal Society Open Science, in press

Bacterial interactions during sequential degradation of cyanobacterial necromass in a sulfidic arctic marine sediment

Seafloor microorganisms impact global carbon cycling by mineralizing vast quantities of organic matter (OM) from pelagic primary production, which is predicted to increase in the Arctic because of diminishing sea ice cover. We studied microbial interspecies-carbon-flow during anaerobic OM degradation in arctic marine sediment using stable isotope probing. We supplemented sediment incubations with 13C-labeled cyanobacterial necromass (spirulina), mimicking fresh OM input, or acetate, an important OM degradation intermediate, and monitored sulfate reduction rates and concentrations of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) during substrate degradation. Sequential 16S rRNA gene and transcript amplicon sequencing and fluorescence in situ hybridization combined with Raman microspectroscopy revealed that only few bacterial species were the main degraders of 13C-spirulina necromass. Psychrilyobacter, Psychromonas, Marinifilum, Colwellia, Marinilabiaceae and Clostridiales species were likely involved in the primary hydrolysis and fermentation of spirulina. VFAs, mainly acetate, produced from spirulina degradation were mineralized by sulfate-reducing bacteria and an Arcobacter species. Cellular activity of Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae species during acetoclastic sulfate reduction was largely decoupled from relative 16S rRNA gene abundance shifts. Our findings provide new insights into the identities and physiological constraints that determine the population dynamics of key microorganisms during complex OM degradation in arctic marine sediments.

Müller AL, Pelikan C, de Rezende JR, Wasmund K, Putz M, Glombitza C, Kjeldsen KU, Jørgensen BB, Loy A
2018 - Environ Microbiol, In press

Detection of Chlamydiaceae and Chlamydia-like organisms on the ocular surface of children and adults from a trachoma-endemic region

Trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness, is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct), a bacterium of the phylum Chlamydiae. Recent investigations revealed the existence of additional families within the phylum Chlamydiae, also termed Chlamydia-like organisms (CLOs). In this study, the frequency of Ct and CLOs was examined in the eyes of healthy Sudanese (control) participants and those with trachoma (case). We tested 96 children (54 cases and 42 controls) and 93 adults (51 cases and 42 controls) using broad-range Chlamydiae and Ct-specific (omcB) real-time PCR. Samples positive by broad-range Chlamydiae testing were subjected to DNA sequencing. Overall Chlamydiae prevalence was 36%. Sequences corresponded to unclassified and classified Chlamydiae. Ct infection rate was significantly higher in children (31.5%) compared to adults (0%) with trachoma (p < 0.0001). In general, 21.5% of adults and 4.2% of children tested positive for CLOs (p = 0.0003). Our findings are consistent with previous investigations describing the central role of Ct in trachoma among children. This is the first study examining human eyes for the presence of CLOs. We found an age-dependent distribution of CLO DNA in human eyes with significantly higher positivity in adults. Further studies are needed to understand the impact of CLOs in trachoma pathogenicity and/or protection.

Ghasemian E, Inic-Kanada A, Collingro A, Tagini F, Stein E, Alchalabi H, Schuerer N, Keše D, Babiker BE, Borel N, Greub G, Barisani-Asenbauer T
2018 - Sci Rep, 1: 7432