Fungal weathering of asbestos in semi arid regions of India


Bhattacharya, S (Bhattacharya, Shabori), John, PJ (John, P. J.), Ledwani, L (Ledwani, Lalita).


The science of Geomicrobiology, which deals with mineral- microbe interaction in nature contributes effectively to three important processes namely-mineral and metal bioremediation, biomining and soil mineral formation by microbes. Bioremediation one of the important process of the above, degrades or transforms hazardous contaminants to less toxic compounds. Several groups of fungi have proved highly efficient in this aspect, with asbestos being one such toxic entity in the environment on which their activity was studied. The present investigation uses the same tool as a device for detoxifying asbestos, a potent carcinogenic entity; with fungal isolates native to the asbestos mines of Rajasthan, India, being investigated for the first time. The cellular mechanism of asbestos toxicity is mainly attributed to the presence of iron in its chemical composition which catalyzes generation of free radicals leading to oxidation of biomolecules. The two dominant novel species found therein, identified as Aspergillus tubingenesis and Coemansia reverse have proved capable of actively removing iron from asbestos fibers as studied by scanning electron microscopy-electron diffraction X-ray (SEM-EDX) analysis. This probably could lead to a reduction in toxicity of asbestos, due to reduced iron concentration as reported in related studies. Many fungi are known to release iron chelating compounds, siderophores, which could be instrumental in the study. The findings related to two new fungal species being added to the list of earlier identified fungal bioremediators of asbestos, widens the prospect of using bioremediation as an effective tool for asbestos detoxification.