Variations in microcolony strength of probe-defined bacteria in activated sludge flocs.
ABSTRACT The strength of activated sludge flocs is important for the flocculation, settling and dewatering properties of activated sludge and thus the performance of wastewater treatment plants. Little is known about how different bacteria affect the floc properties, so in this study it was investigated whether the strength and other characteristics of large microcolonies within activated sludge flocs from a full-scale nutrient removal plant varied significantly between different phylogenetic groups of bacteria. The investigation was carried out by using a shear method for deflocculation of activated sludge flocs, combined with different chemical manipulations under defined conditions. The identification and quantification of the microcolony-forming bacteria were conducted with group-specific gene probes and fluorescence in situ hybridization. The focus was on the microcolonies and not on the entire sludge flocs. In general, the results showed large difference in the strength and colloid-chemical properties of the different probe-defined microcolonies. By applying extensive shear to the system, less than 12% of the microcolony biovolume of the Beta-, Gamma- and Deltaproteobacteria and Actinobacteria could be disrupted, thus forming strong microcolonies. Alphaproteobacteria and Firmicutes formed weaker microcolonies (42-61% could be disrupted by shear). For most groups, several intermolecular forces determined the strength of the microcolonies: hydrophobic interactions, cross-linking by multivalent cations and perhaps entanglements of extracellular polymeric substances. However, the dominant force varied between the various phylogenetic groups. The large difference between the different phylogenetic groups indicated that only a few species were present within each group, rather than many different bacterial species within each phylogenetic group had similar floc properties.
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ABSTRACT: In the conventional activated sludge process, a number of important parameters determining the efficiency of settling and dewatering are often linked to specific groups of bacteria in the sludge - namely floc size, residual turbidity, shear sensitivity and composition of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). In membrane bioreactors (MBRs) the nature of solids separation at the membrane has much in common with sludge dewaterability but less is known about the effect of specific microbial groups on the sludge characteristics that affect this process. In this study, six full-scale MBR plants were investigated to identify correlations between sludge filterability, sludge characteristics, and microbial community structure. The microbial community structure was described by quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization and sludge filterability by a low-pressure filtration method. A strong correlation between the degree of flocculation (ratio between floc size and residual turbidity) and sludge filterability at low pressure was found. A good balance between EPS and cations in the sludge correlated with good flocculation, relatively large sludge flocs, and low amounts of small particles and single cells in the bulk phase (measured as residual turbidity), all leading to a good filterability. Floc properties could also be linked to the microbial community structure. Bacterial species forming strong microcolonies such as Nitrospira and Accumulibacter were present in plants with good flocculation and filtration properties, while few strong microcolonies and many filamentous bacteria in the plants correlated with poor flocculation and filtration problems. In conclusion this study extends the hitherto accepted perception that plant operation affects floc properties which affects fouling. Additionally, plant operation also affects species composition, which affects floc properties and in the end fouling propensity.Water Research 09/2013; · 4.66 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Acute infections caused by pathogenic bacteria have been studied extensively for well over 100 years. These infections killed millions of people in previous centuries, but they have been combated effectively by the development of modern vaccines, antibiotics and infection control measures. Most research into bacterial pathogenesis has focused on acute infections, but these diseases have now been supplemented by a new category of chronic infections caused by bacteria growing in slime-enclosed aggregates known as biofilms. Biofilm infections, such as pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients, chronic wounds, chronic otitis media and implant- and catheter-associated infections, affect millions of people in the developed world each year and many deaths occur as a consequence. In general, bacteria have two life forms during growth and proliferation. In one form, the bacteria exist as single, independent cells (planktonic) whereas in the other form, bacteria are organized into sessile aggregates. The latter form is commonly referred to as the biofilm growth phenotype. Acute infections are assumed to involve planktonic bacteria, which are generally treatable with antibiotics, although successful treatment depends on accurate and fast diagnosis. However, in cases where the bacteria succeed in forming a biofilm within the human host, the infection often turns out to be untreatable and will develop into a chronic state. The important hallmarks of chronic biofilm-based infections are extreme resistance to antibiotics and many other conventional antimicrobial agents, and an extreme capacity for evading the host defences. In this thesis, I will assemble the current knowledge on biofilms with an emphasis on chronic infections, guidelines for diagnosis and treatment of these infections, before relating this to my previous research into the area of biofilms. I will present evidence to support a view that the biofilm lifestyle dominates chronic bacterial infections, where bacterial aggregation is the default mode, and that subsequent biofilm development progresses by adaptation to nutritional and environmental conditions. I will make a series of correlations to highlight the most important aspects of biofilms from my perspective, and to determine what can be deduced from the past decades of biofilm research. I will try to bridge in vitro and in vivo research and propose methods for studying biofilms based on this knowledge. I will compare how bacterial biofilms exist in stable ecological habitats and opportunistically in unstable ecological habitats, such as infections. Bacteria have a similar lifestyle (the biofilm) in both habitats, but the fight for survival and supremacy is different. On the basis of this comparison, I will hypothesize how chronic biofilm infections are initiated and how bacteria live together in these infections. Finally, I will discuss different aspects of biofilm infection diagnosis. Hopefully, this survey of current knowledge and my proposed guidelines will provide the basis and inspiration for more research, improved diagnostics, and treatments for well-known biofilm infections and any that may be identified in the future.APMIS. Supplementum 05/2013;
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ABSTRACT: The impact of alternating influent carbon sources, i.e., glucose and starch, on activated sludge bioflocculation was investigated. To this end, four lab-scale reactors were operated during a long-term experiment. During this period the influent carbon source ratio (glucose/starch) was alternated every 7 or 35 days (i.e., a fast and slow switching frequency). Bioflocculation was monitored throughout the entire experiment using an extensive set of parameters, including macroscopic and microscopic activated sludge characteristics. Sludge hydrophobicity remained high (> 80%) throughout the experiment indicating good bioflocculation. However, sludge settleability decreased for all four reactors after a 60 day adaptation period to the applied alternation in influent carbon source. During this adaptation period, floc size decreased due to the release of microcolonies. The subsequent period was characterized by a decrease in settleability, coinciding with a release of primary particles and an increase in floc size. The observed phenomena could be linked with the protein concentration near the floc surface. This fraction mainly consists of hydrolytic enzymes necessary for the degradation of starch and is responsible for a progressive deterioration of the EPS matrix. The results of this specific study indicate to be independent of the influent carbon source ratio or switching frequency.Journal of Biotechnology 07/2013; · 3.18 Impact Factor