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A review on biosurfactant producing bacteria for remediation of petroleum contaminated soils


The discharge of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons into the environment has been a matter of concern, as these organic pollutants accumulate in many ecosystems due to their hydrophobicity and low bioavailability. Petroleum hydrocarbons are neurotoxic and carcinogenic organic pollutants, extremely harmful to human and environmental health. Traditional treatment methods for removing hydrocarbons from polluted areas, including various mechanical and chemical strategies, are ineffective and costly. However, many indigenous microorganisms in soil and water can utilise hydrocarbon compounds as sources of carbon and energy and hence, can be employed to degrade hydrocarbon contaminants. Therefore, bioremediation using bacteria that degrade petroleum hydrocarbons is commonly viewed as an environmentally acceptable and effective method. The efficacy of bioremediation can be boosted further by using potential biosurfactant-producing microorganisms, as biosurfactants reduce surface tension, promote emulsification and micelle formation, making hydrocarbons bio-available for microbial breakdown. Further, introducing nanoparticles can improve the solubility of hydrophobic hydrocarbons as well as microbial synthesis of biosurfactants, hence establishing a favourable environment for microbial breakdown of these chemicals. The review provides insights into the role of microbes in the bioremediation of soils contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons and emphasises the significance of biosurfactants and potential biosurfactant-producing bacteria. The review partly focusses on how nanotechnology is being employed in different critical bioremediation processes.

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The authors would like to acknowledge the support of Department of Environmental Science, College of Basic Science & Humanities, Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar, 263145, Uttarakhand, India.


Senior Research Fellowship to Diksha Sah from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, Goverment of India.

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Methodology, conceptualization, validation and investigation: DS, AG & MC; Original draft preparation & writing: DS & AG; Review and editing: JPNR. All authors have read and agreed to publish this version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Diksha Sah.

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Sah, D., Rai, J.P.N., Ghosh, A. et al. A review on biosurfactant producing bacteria for remediation of petroleum contaminated soils. 3 Biotech 12, 218 (2022).

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  • Bioremediation
  • Biosurfactants
  • Microorganisms
  • Nanoparticles
  • Petroleum hydrocarbons
  • Soil contamination