Microbial Ecology

, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 293–306 | Cite as

Microbiology of Healing Mud (Fango) from Roman Thermae Aquae Iasae Archaeological Site (Varaždinske Toplice, Croatia)

  • Janez Mulec
  • Václav Krištůfek
  • Alica Chroňáková
  • Andreea Oarga
  • Josef Scharfen
  • Martina Šestauberová
Environmental Microbiology


We found well-preserved, rocky artefacts that had been buried in the healing mud (fango) for more than 1,500 years at the Roman archaeological site at Varaždinske Toplice. This Roman pool with fango sediments and artefacts is fed from hot sulphidic springs. The fango exhibited nearly neutral pH, a high level of organic C, an elevated concentration of heavy metals and a high total microbial biomass, greater than 108 cells per gram of dry weight. The dominant microbes, assessed by molecular profiling (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis), were affiliated with Thiobacillus, Sulfuricurvum, Polaromonas, and Bdellovibrio. Polymerase chain reaction screening for microbial functional guilds revealed the presence of sulphur oxidizers and methanogens but no sulphate reducers. The dominance of four Proteobacterial classes (α-, β-, δ- and ε-Proteobacteria) was confirmed by fluorescence in situ hybridisation; Actinobacteria were less abundant. Cultivable bacteria represented up to 23.4 % of the total bacterial counts when cultivation media was enriched with fango. These bacteria represented the genera Acinetobacter, Aeromonas, Arthrobacter, Comamonas, Ewingella, Flavobacterium, Pseudomonas, Rahnella and Staphylococcus. This study showed that the heterogeneous nature of fango at neutral pH created various microniches, which largely supported microbial life based on sulphur-driven, autotrophic denitrification.


Thiobacillus Archaeological Artefact Anaerobic Methane Oxidation Polaromonas Total Microbial Count 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The study was partly supported by the Slovenian Research Agency (J6-0152, P6-0119 and L1-5453) and the inter-academic exchange program between the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The authors are particularly grateful to Spomenka Vlahović and Hrvoje Posilović for assistance and excellent cooperation during the archaeological excavation; to Franjo Drole for assistance during field work; and to Boštjan Geohelli for the facility support. The authors also thank the Laboratory of Electron Microscopy–Institute of Parasitology BC AS CR, v. v. i. in České Budějovice for a productive collaboration on scanning electron microscopy. Finally, the authors would like to thank Majka Stehlíková and Mateja Zadel for laboratory assistance and San Francisco Edit for language assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janez Mulec
    • 1
  • Václav Krištůfek
    • 2
  • Alica Chroňáková
    • 2
  • Andreea Oarga
    • 3
  • Josef Scharfen
    • 4
    • 5
  • Martina Šestauberová
    • 2
  1. 1.Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and ArtsKarst Research InstitutePostojnaSlovenia
  2. 2.Biology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republicv. v. i.-Institute of Soil BiologyČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  3. 3.Ştefan cel Mare UniversitySuceavaRomania
  4. 4.Department of Clinical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine and University HospitalCharles UniversityHradec KralovéCzech Republic
  5. 5.National Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Actinomycetes, Department of Medical Microbiology and ImmunologyRegional Hospital Trutnov, Inc.TrutnovCzech Republic

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