Disaster

Event Date: 
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 19:00 - 19:30
Institution: 
UTS
Title: 

“On the value of reframing antibiotic resistance as a disaster risk problem”

Abstract: 

Dr. Maurizio Labbate1,2 & A/Prof. Dale Dominey-Howes3

1School of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.
2The ithree Institute, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.
3Asia – Pacific Natural Hazards Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, Australia.

Abstract:

On the 1st May 2014 the World Health Organization in its first global assessment of antimicrobial resistance reported that antibiotic resistance has now reached alarming proportions and is no longer a future problem but a contemporary reality. This comes off the back of other urgent calls from leading authorities including the Deputy Director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) who has publicly stated that we have now reached the “end of the antibiotic era” and the UK Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies who called for antibiotic resistance to be placed on the risk register above the issue of terrorism. Increasingly, the tone of the language used by these organizations and individuals is reminiscent of that used by the disaster and emergency risk management communities to describe commonly occurring disasters such as earthquakes, fires, floods and storms.

Antibiotic resistant infections are rising fast and affect millions of people globally. Antibiotic resistance has become a slow onset disaster that like climate change has struggled to elicit the sort of coordinated international response that is required to deal with the magnitude of the emergency. Anthropogenic modification of the Earth’s climate system provides the foundation for sudden onset natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires and storms. Likewise, increasingly widespread antibiotic resistance is laying the foundation for the future occurrence of sudden onset bacterial epidemic and pandemic disasters.

Despite the finest efforts by medical and health policy makers and communities to control the antibiotic resistance problem, the issue has reached a critical tipping point. Given the current state of the antibiotic resistance problem and the likely near future of untreatable bacterial infections, we propose an alternative and novel policy perspective. With this is mind, we propose to make antibiotic a broader issue and reframe it as a disaster risk problem and engage the expertise of emergency managers. Governments and disaster policy makers across the world use the Emergency Risk Management process in the management of and preparation for natural disasters. This process is a systematic method that through engagement with multiple stakeholders identifies, analyses, evaluates and treats risks and takes an iterative approach with well-defined activities that lead to implementation of risk-treatment strategies tailored to a specific community’s risk profile. This policy and practice framework is an excellent mechanism for reaching out to communities and communicating complex messages – an area that needs to be enhanced.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 07:00 - 08:00
Institution: 
Helmholtz Centre for Groundwater Ecology, Munich, Germany
Title: 

Limiting factors for anaerobic aromatic hydrocarbon degradation in contaminated aquifers and oil reservoirs

Abstract: 

 
Biography

  • Rainer Meckenstock studied biology at University of Konstanz, Germany 1985-1990. He finished with a thesis in the group of Prof. Winfried Boss on microbial sugar transport systems (molecular microbiology). He did his PhD at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland, with a thesis on biochemistry of light-harvesting complexes of phototrophic bacteria (1990-1993) in the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics with Prof. Zuber. During his post-doc at the Swiss Federal Institute of Environmental Science andTechnology (EAWAG) in the group of Dr. van der Meer in Dübendorf, Switzerland, he developed molecular methods to monitor trichlorobenzene-degrading microorganisms and their degradation activities in the environment (PCR, RT/PCR, in situ hybridisation) (1993-1995). He changed to the investigation of anaerobic degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons in the Microbial Ecology Group of Prof. Bernhard Schink, University of Konstanz, Germany, in 1996. Here, he isolated novel anaerobic BTEX and PAH-degrading organisms and studied the degradation pathways. A new method to study microbial activities in the environment with analysis of stable isotope fractionation was developed. Since 2000 he changed to the Center of Applied Geosciences at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and set up a Geomicrobiology group within the Chair of Environmental Mineralogy (Prof. Stefan Haderlein). Research topics were the anaerobic degradation of mono- and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (BTEX, PAH), isotope fractionation as a means to monitor biodegradation in contaminated groundwaters, limitations of natural attentuation, and the reduction of iron minerals as electron acceptor. Since July 2003, he became the director of the Institute of Hydrology at GSF which changed its name to Institute of Groundwater Ecology at the beginning of 2004. In 2007 he was appointed as a full professor for Groundwater Ecology at the Life Science Center (WZW) of the Technical University of Munich.
Event Date: 
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 18:00 - 18:15
Institution: 
UNSW
Title: 

Towards a hexachlorobenzene bioreactor

Abstract: 

Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) is highly persistent environmental pollutant due to its chemical stability. It has been used in the production of rubber, as wood preserving agent and as pesticide and it is considered a possible human carcinogen.  HCB is particularly relevant in Australia, since it holds the largest HCB stockpile in the world (Botany Bay Industrial Park, NSW). So far only physic-chemical technologies have been applied for the destruction of HCB; however, these methods do not ensure full destruction and may lead to the generation of more harmful compounds, such as dioxins.  On the other hand, it is well known that obligate anaerobic bacteria are able to reductively dechlorinate HCB to less chlorinated congeners.  Therefore, a biological approach seems to be a more suitable and environmental friendly solution.

In this study we present a microbial community, taken from a site contaminated with chlorinated solvents, capable of reductively dechlorinating HCB and 1,2,4,5- Tetrachlorobenzene (TeCB). Cultures were established using acetate and H2 or lactate as carbon source and electron donor, respectively. 1,3- and 1,4- dichlorobenzenes were the main breakdown products in the cultures supplied  with 1, 2, 4, 5- TeCB, monochlorobenzene was also observed in a lower extent. Cultures with HCB only showed  1, 3, 5-Trichlorobenzene as breakdown product. Quantitative PCR, targeting Dehalococcoides´ 16S (a well-known dechlorinating bacterium) showed high abundance of this species in the cultures. 

JAMS REPORT
Ani Penesyan
 
On the last Wednesday of spring we were spoiled with the room on the top floor of the Australian Museum and magnificent views of Sydney, yes, once again! Joining us were not only our regular JAMS crowd, but also visitors from Europe (yes, that is really cold in Europe during this time of the year!)
 

Event Date: 
Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 07:00 - 08:00
Institution: 
University of Sydney
Title: 

Biodegradation of dichloroethane by aerobic bacteria at the Botany Industrial Park

Abstract: 

The chlorinated hydrocarbon 1,2-dichloroethane (DCA) is a common pollutant of groundwater, and poses both human and environmental health risks. The Botany Industrial Park in south Sydney is heavily contaminated with DCA and other organochlorines. The main user of the site (Orica Ltd) operates a large groundwater treatment plant (GTP) on site to contain and remediate the DCA-contaminated groundwater. At present, remediation is done by air-stripping and thermal oxidation, but this is very costly and energy-intensive. Orica is interested in alternative technologies for treating the groundwater, including bioremediation. In 2010, a pilot scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) was set up to treat a fraction of the groundwater. The aims of our study were to identify DCA-degrading bacteria and genes in the GTP and on the site at large, define the community structure and ecological successions occurring in the MBR, develop a qPCR for catabolic genes in the DCA biodegradation pathway, and field-test this qPCR assay in the MBR and in a survey of groundwater in monitoring wells on the site. We discovered that DCA-degrading bacteria using a hydrolytic pathway (dhlA/dhlB genes) were widespread and diverse at this site, and that the dhlA gene was carried on a catabolic plasmid. The community in the MBR was dominated by alpha- and beta-proteobacteria, and was highly dynamic, changing dramatically in composition as the percentage of raw groundwater in the feed was increased. By combining dhlA qPCR and 16S pyrosequencing data, we found evidence that thus-far-uncultured species of Azoarcus may play a major role in DCA bioremediation in situ in the MBR.

 
Prepared by Valentina Wong (UNSW PhD student)
On a cold Tuesday night, Adrian Low from University of New South Wales warmed the JAMS audience with his passion on bioremediation of organochlorine contaminated groundwater. Adrian described the discovery of Australia’s first 1,2-dichloroethane (DCA) degrading consortium, AusDCA. His work in the field demonstrated the efficacy and sustainability of using organochlorine respiring bacteria to remediate organochlorine contaminants in situ. He plans to isolate the bacterial species responsible for performing this unique task.

Event Date: 
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 18:15 - 18:30
Institution: 
University of NSW
Title: 

Development of an Australian 1,2-Dichloroethane degrading culture

Abstract: 

 
1,2-Dichloroethane (DCA) is one of the most common organochlorine groundwater contaminants worldwide. The successes of bioremediation field studies with organochlorine respiring bacteria have proved the efficacy of the method to degrade such contaminants in situ. The objective of this study was to demonstrate that a DCA degrading consortium, named AusDCA could be used to bioaugment a DCA contaminated acidic aquifer in situ. Functional characterisation experiments of AusDCA in batch cultures showed that the culture could dechlorinate high concentrations of DCA (6.3 mM) to ethene anaerobically at pH 5.5 and pH 6.5 and was not inhibited by approximately 15 µM of chloroform (CF). 

Event Date: 
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 18:00 - 18:15
Institution: 
University of NSW
Title: 

Bioremediation of Mixed Chlorinated Solvents by Combining Two Biogeochemical Processes

Abstract: 

Chloroethenes are a class of chlorinated solvents which cause extensive soil and groundwater contamination worldwide. They can be detoxified by anaerobic dehalogenating bacteria, in the process of reductive dechlorination.  However, chloroethenes are often found mixed with chloromethanes, a class of solvents which inhibit the enzymatic detoxification of chloroethenes by dehalogenating strains.  Iron sulfides are powerful chemical reductants for the dechlorination of chloromethanes, and can be generated through the metabolism of iron- and sulfate-reducing bacteria. In this study, a sulfate reducing bacterium was used to produce iron sulfide in the presence of moderate levels of tetrachloroethene and carbon tetrachloride to examine the ability of a sulfate reducing organism to drive reduction of a chloromethane in the presence of chloroethene.

 

Cultures of the sulfate-reducer Desulfovibrio vulgaris were established in the presence of 100 µM each of tetrachloroethene and carbon tetrachloride. Growth, sulfide formation and chlorinated solvents and their dechlorinated products were monitored. The effects of amorphous iron oxide and cyanocobalamin on the fate of chlorinated solvents compared with unamended control cultures were investigated. 

Following growth and sulfide formation, carbon tetrachloride was dechlorinated mostly to carbon disulfide while tetrachloroethene was dechlorinated to trichloroethene and acetylene.  Dechlorination rates were enhanced both by the presence of iron and cyanocobalamin separately, and significantly increased when both were present.

This study illustrates the potential to use sulfate reducing bacteria in zones of mixed chlorinated solvent groundwater pollution in order to produce iron sulfide minerals. Their cyanocobalamin-catalyzed action on chloromethanes, coupled with that of dehalogenating strains on chloroethenes is a promising strategy for the bioremediation of such contaminated areas."

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