Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 97, Issue 23, pp 9909–9921 | Cite as

Applications of biofilms in bioremediation and biotransformation of persistent organic pollutants, pharmaceuticals/personal care products, and heavy metals

  • Sarah J. Edwards
  • Birthe V. KjellerupEmail author


In this review, the strategies being employed to exploit the inherent durability of biofilms and the diverse nutrient cycling of the microbiome for bioremediation are explored. Focus will be given to halogenated compounds, hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products as well as some heavy metals and toxic minerals, as these groups represent the majority of priority pollutants. For decades, industrial processes have been creating waste all around the world, resulting in contaminated sediments and subsequent, far-reaching dispersal into aquatic environments. As persistent pollutants have accumulated and are still being created and disposed, the incentive to find suitable and more efficient solutions to effectively detoxify the environment is even greater. Indigenous bacterial communities are capable of metabolizing persistent organic pollutants and oxidizing heavy metal contaminants. However, their low abundance and activity in the environment, difficulties accessing the contaminant or nutrient limitations in the environment all prevent the processes from occurring as quickly as desired and thus reaching the proposed clean-up goals. Biofilm communities provide among other things a beneficial structure, possibility for nutrient, and genetic exchange to participating microorganisms as well as protection from the surrounding environment concerning for instance predation and chemical and shear stresses. Biofilms can also be utilized in other ways as biomarkers for monitoring of stream water quality from for instance mine drainage. The durability and structure of biofilms together with the diverse array of structural and metabolic characteristics make these communities attractive actors in biofilm-mediated remediation solutions and ecosystem monitoring.


Biofilm Bioremediation Bioreactors Biotransformation Persistent organic pollutants Chlorinated compounds Heavy metals Ecosystem monitoring 



This work was supported by research funding to B. V. Kjellerup from the US Department of Defense, Strategic Environmental Research, and Development Program Project Number ER-2135.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesGoucher CollegeBaltimoreUSA

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