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Comamonas testosteroni: Nature’s novel plastic recycler


In a new analysis undertaken by Northwestern University, researchers for the first time understood the metabolic processes that allow Comamonas testosteroni to consume the apparently indigestible polymer. This new knowledge might lead to innovative biotechnology platforms that use the bacteria to aid in the recycling of plastic trash. Various environments contain Comamonas species, including topsoil and wastewater sludge. Researchers first became interested in C. testosteroni because of its innate capacity to break down commercial detergent. Further investigation revealed that this indigenous bacterium also degrades plastic and lignin-derived chemicals. Although some researchers have attempted to develop bacteria that can decompose plastic, Ludmilla Aristilde an associate professor of Northwestern University thinks that naturally occurring bacteria possess more potential in degrading plastics and are more useful for industrial recovery operations. Soil microorganisms offer an untapped and underutilised natural source of biological pathways that could be used to assist us deal with the growing amount of trash on our planet. Their discoverey on C. testosteroni revealed that the metabolism of the bacterium is integrated at multiple levels of regulation. Microbiology has the phenomenal potential to be very useful in creating a sustainable future. Since it is well known that some types of bacteria can consume the carbon element of plastic, the idea of microbial recycling is not novel. When its primary carbohydrate is lacking, Escherichia coli, more generally referred to as E. coli, may also carry out this activity.  However, E.Coli feeds in its normal state on several kinds of sugar. If the environment has any sugars, they will be absorbed while the plastic waste remains untilized. It takes a lot of work to modify germs for various uses, Aristilde added. It’s crucial to understand that C.testosteroni cannot metabolize sugars at all. This bacterium is an appealing platform because it has inherent genetic restrictions that prohibit competing with carbohydrates. The metabolic pathways that bacteria employ to break down plastic and lignin molecules into carbons for sustenance were mapped by Aristilde and her team by investigating the relationships between transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and fluxomics. In the end, the team found that each compound’s carbon ring is initially broken down by the bacterium. The bacteria continue to break down the ring into smaller pieces after splitting it and opening it into a linear shape. Plastic pollution has emerged as one of the biggest problems of the twenty-first century, despite recovery and recycling at only 9%. Our plastic garbage is contaminating every aspect of the planet, which has significant repercussions on both human and environmental life. Numerous recycling solutions have been created as the plastics situation has intensified. The most recent research, however, indicates that even the most sophisticated of these techniques has its limitations. Apparently, adaptable alternatives that are technically feasible, commercially viable, and ecologically friendly are urgently needed. The researchers assert that C. testosteroni could very well be the solution provided.


Dr. Priya Sutaoney
Assistant Professor-Microbiology
Kalinga University, Raipur

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