Indigenous butyric acid-degrading bacteria as surrogate pit latrine odour control: isolation, biodegradability performance and growth kinetics

  • John Bright J. Njalam’manoEmail author
  • Evans Martin N. Chirwa
Original Article


Butyric acid is one of the volatile organic compounds that significantly contribute to malodour emission from pit latrines. The purpose of this work is to isolate and identify bacterial strains that have the capability to degrade butyric acid, determine their butyric acid degradation efficiencies and estimate their growth pattern parameters of microbiological relevance. Pure cultures of bacterial strains capable of degrading butyric acid were isolated from pit latrine faecal sludge using an enrichment technique and were identified based on 16S rRNA analysis. The bacterial strains were cultured in mineral salt medium (MSM) supplemented with 1000 mg L−1 butyric acid, as a sole carbon and energy source, at 30 ± 1 °C, pH 7 and 110 rpm under aerobic growth conditions. The modified Gompertz model was used to estimate growth pattern parameters of microbiological relevance. Bacterial strains were phylogenetically identified as Alcaligenes sp. strain SY1, Achromobacter animicus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Serratia marcescens, Achromobacter xylosoxidans, Bacillus cereus, Lysinibacillus fusiformis, Bacillus methylotrophicus and Bacillus subtilis. The bacterial strains in pure cultures degraded butyric acid of 1000 mg L−1 within 20–24 h. The growth kinetics of the bacterial strains in pure culture utilising butyric acid were well described by the modified Gompertz model. This work highlights the potential for use of these bacterial strains in microbial degradation of butyric acid for deodorisation of pit latrine faecal sludge. This work also contributes significantly to our understanding of bioremediation of faecal sludge odours and informs the development of appropriate odour control technologies that may improve odour emissions from pit latrines.


Biodegradation Butyric acid Growth kinetics Odour Pit latrine 



We would like to thank Professor Fanus Venter for his excellent assistance in purification and identification of the bacterial strains. This research was supported in part by a Water Chair from Sedibeng Water and the National Research Commission Project NRF Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers Grant No. CSUR180215313534 awarded to Prof Evans Chirwa of the University of Pretoria. We are also grateful to the Department of Research and Innovation at the University of Pretoria for awarding the postgraduate fellowship through the UP-Commonwealth programme to the co-author Mr. John Njala’mmano.


This work was funded by Sediberg Water, South Africa and the National Research Commission Project NRF Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers Grant No. CSUR180215313534 awarded to Prof Evans Chirwa of the University of Pretoria.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human or animal participants

No humans or animals were used in this work.

Informed consent


Supplementary material

13213_2018_1408_MOESM1_ESM.docx (362 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 361 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature and the University of Milan 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Bright J. Njalam’mano
    • 1
    Email author
  • Evans Martin N. Chirwa
    • 1
  1. 1.Water Utilisation and Environmental Engineering Division, Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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