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Environ Pollut. 2013 Jul;178:474-82. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2013.03.042. Epub 2013 Apr 6.

Update on the cometabolism of organic pollutants by bacteria.

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King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Department of Biology, PO Box 468, Dhahran 31261, Saudi Arabia.


Each year, tons of various types of molecules pollute our environment, and their elimination is one of the major challenges human kind is facing. Among the strategies to eliminate these pollutants is their biodegradation by microorganisms. However, many pollutants cannot be used efficiently as growth substrates by microorganisms. Biodegradation of such molecules by cometabolism has been reported, which is the ability of a microorganism to biodegrade a pollutant without using it as a growth-substrate (non-growth-substrate), while sustaining its own growth by assimilating a different substrate (growth-substrate). This approach has been used in the field of bioremediation, however, its potential has not been fully exploited yet. This review summarises the work carried out on the cometabolism of important recalcitrant pollutants, and presents strategies that can be used to improve ways of identifying microorganisms that can cometabolise such recalcitrant pollutants.

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